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Making Decisions When You Cannot - Power of Attorney Explained

There may come a time when for a variety of reasons you are unable to make decisions for yourself. In such a situation you may want someone else to make those decisions for you. This is known as ‘power of attorney’. It’s a legal document that allows whoever you appoint to engage with others such as your doctor, or your bank, for you.

Why could I need a power of attorney?

We all want to be able to make our own decisions. If you are able to make your own decisions, then you will not require a power of attorney. Sadly there may be any number of reasons why this is not possible. As a result, you may find yourself needing someone to make decisions on your behalf. For that reason having one in place is important. Having someone who is able to act on your behalf can be a temporary arrangement. You might, for example, want them to handle paying all your bills if you are in hospital. Then again you may find that you need to consider making longer-term plans. It could be the result of things like:
•A serious accident
•Brain Injury
•An adverse reaction to medical treatment.
There could be other reasons why you are unable to make your own decisions. A power of attorney allows someone to make decisions for you when you are no longer able to.

The different types of power of attorney

It’s important to note that there is more than one type of power of attorney. These are:
•Ordinary Power of Attorney
•Lasting Power of Attorney

You can set up more than one power of attorney if needed. Ordinary Power of Attorney: If you need short-term help, then an ordinary power of attorney may be the best option. It allows someone to act for you on a temporary basis if you are not able to. It might be because you are unable to get out and about or you have to spend time in hospital. When you put this type of arrangement in place, you can limit what your attorney can do. You might, for example, only give them the power to deal with issues which involve your bank account. An ordinary power of attorney only lasts as long as you are able to make your own decisions.
Lasting Power of Attorney:
If you need long-term help there are two types of lasting power of attorney (LPA) that can be set up.
•Money and property LPA – can start at any time you specify or you lose the ability to make your own choices.
•Health and care LPA – takes effect when you are no longer able to make your own decisions about your health.

If you are not in a position to make decisions about your health or social care, then you might need a health and care LPA. It allows your attorney to make decisions for you. They will be able to decide what’s best for both your social care as well as any medical care you might need. The other type of LPA available deals with decisions about money and property. It allows an attorney to act on your behalf on everything that relates to your financial affairs. This could even include selling your home if they thought it was in your best interests to do so.

What is an attorney?

An attorney is someone who you trust who will make decisions for you and act in your best interests. Apart from being aged 18 or over, you could always choose a:
•Professional person such as a solicitor for example.

They can also be a husband, wife or partner. Whoever you appoint it has to be someone who is capable of making their own decisions. Equally, you don’t have to appoint just one attorney. You can appoint more. If you do, then they can either make decisions jointly or on their own. If you want decisions to be jointly agreed, then all the attorneys have to agree.

What are the benefits?

The main advantage of setting up a power of attorney is that you know there will be someone there who can act for you when you cannot. It means that someone you trust will be able to act for you. You can also appoint more than one person to make decisions on your behalf. This can be helpful if you want one person to make decisions about your financial affairs and another your health and welfare. It is important to remember that being in a civil partnership, married or living together doesn’t give your partner any automatic rights to make decisions for you. The advantages of having an LPA in place is that your partner can act on your behalf and ensure that your wishes are followed.

How do you set up a power of attorney?

To create an ordinary power of attorney, there is a standard form of words you can use. You can find the details by searching for them online. A better option would be to get help by getting in touch with a solicitor or an experienced advisor like those at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

With a lasting power of attorney (LPA), you have two options for putting one in place. One option is to apply online to the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). The other is to request the relevant forms and an information pack from the OPG. Once you have finished completing the forms, you can then register the LPA. If your circumstances are complicated, you may find it useful to get help from a solicitor. They can provide you with advice that ensures that your power of attorney is properly set up.

Registering a power of attorney

While you don’t have to register an ordinary power of attorney you do for a lasting power of attorney (LPA). You do this by registering the LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). It can take about 8 to 10 weeks to register an LPA. If there are no errors with the application, OPG stamp ‘registered’ on every page in the application.

Making changes

Making changes to your power of attorney is possible. You can do this at any point in time as long as you are still capable of making your own decisions. If you make changes to an existing lasting power of attorney, these have to go through the Office of Public Guardian.

Ending a lasting power of attorney

A lasting power of attorney can end in any number of ways. As long as you are able to make your own decisions, the most obvious way is by you deciding to stop the arrangement. You need to let the Office of Public Guardian know if you are going to end a lasting power of attorney. The other ways of stopping a power of attorney are if your attorney dies or they no longer have the ability to make their own decisions. Also, the Court of Protection has the authority to end a power of attorney. They only do this if they decide that it is in your best interests to end it.

Scotland and Northern Ireland

Although the reasons that you might need a power of attorney are the same. It is important to note that the process is different in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Finding out more

If you need help, you could search online. You can find information about power of attorney on both the Citizens Advice and the Age UK websites. There is also information about setting up a lasting power of attorney available on the GOV.UK website. It includes details on how to get in touch with the Office of the Public Guardian. You can also ask a solicitor or Citizens Advice Bureau for help.

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