For many of us, a time may come when we won’t be able to make the best life decisions because of mental incapacity.
At that time, having someone there to make a decision about our finances or care could be invaluable. Granting someone power of attorney enables them to do exactly that.
Thinking about a time when we can’t make the kind of decisions that seem instinctive right now can be difficult, either because it’s hard to conceptualise or because it’s troubling to. But it’s important to do so, and to make arrangements in good time; if you leave arranging lasting power of attorney too late, it may not be considered valid.
If that happens, you and your family could be facing an uphill battle to see your best interests served. So appraise the benefits of power of attorney below and get the ball in motion.
The fundamental benefit of power of attorney is that you can take care of your best interests even at a time when you don’t have the mental capacity. You can choose to whom powers of attorney are granted – you can even choose multiple attorneys – and you can decide whether they should have the powers to oversee your financial and property affairs or your medical treatment and care – or both. Replacing enduring power of attorney in 2007 – though EPAs made before then remain valid – LPAs come in ‘Personal Welfare’ and ‘Property and Affairs’ formats, meaning you can elect different people to act on your behalf in different scenarios.
The ability to personally choose the people you think are best qualified to represent you is a significant benefit of power of attorney – and not one available to you if you go down alternative routes when your mental capacity slips.
If you have not arranged power of attorney by the time your faculties diminish, you and your family could be facing a costly and drawn-out route through the Court of Protection to resolve the issue of who will take responsibility for your finance or care. Even once that is done, there is no guarantee that the person you feel would best fulfil the role will be looked to.
You are protected
Power of attorney gives you long-term protection: there will be someone looking out for you when you can’t look out for yourself. But it also offers immediate protection.
If you are 18 or older, the chances are you can arrange powers of attorney, but they will only have an effect when your mental capacity declines to the point that you can no longer make critical decisions yourself.
Power of attorney needs to be ratified by the Office of the Public Guardian, meaning there is no risk of an attorney exploiting their position. Furthermore, if an attorney fails to comply with their responsibilities they can find themselves in front of a judge on fraud or negligence charges