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Do You Need a Power of Attorney?

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A power of attorney is a document which quite simply grants to another person the ability to 'stand in your shoes', to act on your behalf in financial and property matters and, with some powers of attorney, in matters of personal and medical care as well. For many years it has been possible to make what is known as a 'general power of attorney', a document which is often drawn up on a temporary basis, to allow another to act for a person whilst they are, for example, abroad for some months, or otherwise indisposed. Such a document is only effective for as long as the donor (the person making the power of attorney) wishes and can be revoked by them at any time. Likewise, if the donor loses their mental capacity, the general power of attorney is automatically revoked. Due to the above fact a general power of attorney would be of no help to someone seeking to ensure their loved ones can make decisions on their behalf should they become mentally incapable of doing so themselves, as it would be revoked automatically in such a situation. Therefore, in 1985 the government introduced the 'Enduring Power of Attorney', or 'EPA'. There were, however, problems with the EPA. No decision could be made under an EPA about personal care or health issues and in certain circumstances they could be open to abuse as they could be used without registration for some tasks. On 1st October 2007 the government replaced EPAs with 'Lasting Powers of Attorney' (LPAs). If you already have an enduring power of attorney made before the 1st October 2007 it is still valid. However, no new ones can now be made. There are two types of LPA, one to deal with property and financial affairs and one to deal with health and welfare issues. The new LPAs allow donors a greater deal of flexibility than the old EPA. More than one attorney can be appointed, and there is a choice of how the donor wishes them to act – together at all times; separately; or a mixture of both. The donor can also choose replacement attorneys if the first attorneys were to die or become unable to act. There is also provision for the donor to specify areas in which they do not wish the attorney to act. To be effective and as a safeguard against improper use all LPAs must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian and cannot be used before this. Making an LPA is strongly encouraged, not just for the elderly. Unfortunately the sad facts of life dictate that no-one knows whether they might suffer an accident causing them to lose their mental capacity, and without a lasting power of attorney (or an enduring power if you already have one) your loved ones may suffer even more stress at a difficult time, as they would have to make a lengthy application to the Court of Protection for power over your assets, something which is often very costly. So don't delay – why not come in and talk to us about drawing up a power of attorney as soon as possible? • For additional information please contact: Claire Buttress of Gepp & Sons. The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.