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A guide to power of attorney

Thinking about what would happen if you couldn’t make your own decisions any more isn’t a pleasant experience, but it’s wise to be prepared for such an event.

Our guide explains what power of attorney is, the different types and when one should be appointed.

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What is power of attorney?

Power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the ability to make decisions for you and act on your behalf in official settings. You create this kind of arrangement so that when you’re no longer able or willing to make your own decisions, someone you trust can do this for you.

You can make this a temporary situation, such as if you’re in hospital and need everyday things taking care of but it can also made more of a permanent change.

Why would you let someone else make your decisions?

Power of attorney can be arranged to allow someone - known as the attorney - to take the reigns when you lose the mental capacity to make your own decisions.

According to the Alzheimer's Society, there are 850,000 people living in the UK with dementia, with this figure set to rise to more than one million by 2025. It estimates that one in six people aged over 80 have the condition, meaning they are unlikely to be able to have full control of their affairs.

To have mental capacity means to be able to understand the decision you need to make, why you have to do it and what the likely outcomes are. Power of attorney means that if you ever develop a condition that inhibits this ability then someone you know and trust can do it for you.

The nominated individual will be able to make decisions about your finances, such as your mortgage or savings, and your health, including what you should eat and what type of medical treatment you need.

Different types of power of attorney

Before you make any decisions about power of attorney, you need to ensure you choose the right type, as there is more than one kind.

How do you set up power of attorney?

There is a standard wording that can be used to set up ordinary power of attorney, you just need to get advice from a solicitor or from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

For lasting power of attorney, there steps below must be followed:

  • Step 1 – Get the relevant forms from the Office of the Public Guardian.
  • Step 2 – Fill in a hard copy of the forms or do it online. You can do this alone or with advice from a solicitor.
  • Step 3 – The LPA must then be signed by a certificate provider, which is someone who confirms that you understand your decision and haven’t been pressurised into signing it. The certificate provider must be someone you know well or a professional, such as a doctor or social worker.
  • Step 4 - The LPA must then be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, which comes with a fee. This step must be completed while you have the mental capacity to do so and it can take around nine weeks to register.

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