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What is “Power of Attorney”?

Power of Attorney is a legal document wherein a person gives another person an authority to make decisions for him or her. For example, giving someone an authority to act on your behalf in important circumstances (e.g. financial or medical decisions) means that you will be needing to provide a Power of Attorney for your affairs.

Louise Welch is a STEP Will Writing qualified solicitor at Sanders Witherspoon LLP and she sums up what Power of Attorney means:

‘A Power of Attorney can only be set in place while you are still “mentally capacitated” meaning you still have the ability to assess any kind of information and make decisions for yourself. 

Setting a Power of Attorney in place will definitely give you peace of mind in knowing that someone you chose and someone you trust is in charge of taking on your affairs.

To simplify, you are known as the “donor” and the person you authorized or have given power of attorney is referred to as the “attorney”.’

Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)

The most common form of Power of Attorney and an ongoing arrangement with no definite date.

If you’re 18+ years old and you’re mentally capable to make important decisions concerning your finances, properties, and medical-related choices for yourself, then you can authorize someone you trust to make these decisions for you in the future. This legal authority is referred to as “Lasting Power of Attorney”.

Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA)

Enduring Power of Attorney is used to control the property and financial affairs of a donor. The last batch of EPAs that was set up back in October of 2007 is still in effect. Since then, no other EPAs are in place.

Ordinary Power of Attorney

With an Ordinary Power of Attorney, you can authorize someone you trust to make these decisions for you in the future for a limited time period. When you become mentally incapacitated, the Ordinary Power of Attorney will also lose its effect. This simply means that if you need or want someone you trust to manage your affairs after losing the ability yourself, this type of power of attorney isn’t suitable in your situation.

Appointing attorneys

You can appoint just one or more attorneys to act:

  • “Jointly”, meaning they must always make decisions together.
  • “Jointly and severally”, meaning they have to make some decisions together and while others, individually.

Applying for Power of Attorney

It is recommended for you to set up the following at the same time:

  • personal welfare LPA; and
  • a property and financial affairs LPA.

A lot of people are doing this while reviewing or revising their will because it’s practical to use the same solicitor. Should you wish to apply online, you may do so by visiting GOV.UK.

Alternatively, you may also refer to the Office of the Public Guardian for an application pack:

  • by post at the Office of the Public Guardian; and/or
  • by phone on 0300 456 0300.

If you have questions or if you want a solicitor to check your progress, you may call either the Office of the Public Guardian or the Court of Protection to know if they can help.

The Law Society will be able to lead you to solicitors offering legal aid. To be eligible for legal aid, you first must pass a means test.

Note, though, that Legal aid is available for personal welfare LPA issues, but not for property and financial LPAs.