There’s a widespread assumption that Powers of Attorney are only for the elderly. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
Of course, the risks of your becoming incapacitated rise as life goes on, but accidents and unexpected illnesses do happen and, if you become incapacitated as a result, your family will find that applying to manage your affairs through a Guardianship order is stressful, time consuming and expensive. In these circumstances, a Power of Attorney (PoA) is a bit like an insurance policy that is there in the background just in case you need it.
But there are also circumstances where it is useful to have a PoA in place even if you are perfectly capable of making decisions yourself. Traditionally, PoAs were used to provide a trusted friend, relative or professional like a solicitor with the power to act on your behalf if you were going to be out of the country for long periods of time. These are particularly useful, for example, if you have property abroad where you spend a lot of your time or if you regularly work overseas.
More recently, the focus has been on two types of PoA designed to let you choose who should look after you and your affairs in the event that you become incapacitated. One is known as a ‘Continuing’ PoA and deals with your financial affairs and the other is a ‘Welfare’ PoA that deals with your care and any medical treatment.
Most people make a combined PoA which covers both types, but understanding how these two types work should help you to understand the decisions you are making when drawing up a PoA.
A Welfare PoA empowers whoever you choose to be your attorney to make decisions for you about your health and welfare. For example, your medical treatment and the sort of care you might need. This sort of PoA only comes into force when you are incapacitated. You can set it up at any time, but your appointed attorney can only use it when you are unable to make decisions yourself.
A Continuing PoA empowers your chosen attorney to make decisions about your property and assets. Unlike a Welfare PoA, it can come into effect as soon as it is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian even if you are perfectly capable of making decisions yourself, or you can specify in what circumstances it comes into force – for example only when you are incapacitated.
While there is a temptation to assume that your Continuing PoA should only come into effect in the event of incapacity, there can be advantages to having an attorney with the authority to make decisions about your financial affairs when you are perfectly capable of making them yourself. Your attorney can, for example, step in to help you with tasks that are becoming gradually more onerous.
In short, a PoA can be a convenient tool if you are often away or overwhelmed and a valuable insurance policy in case you become incapacitated. But whichever is your priority, there’s no right time to draw one up. In fact, the best time to start is – well, now.
If you would like more information or wish to discuss preparing a Power of Attorney, please contact Laurence Reilly on 0141 227 2211 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org