Power of Attorney: why you should plan early
Over half of people in the UK are worried about losing their mental capacity in the future, but less than one in ten have a Power of Attorney in place. YouGov research for Golden Charter has found that the main reason preventing people from arranging a Power of Attorney is lack of knowledge.
What is Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is a legal document which allows you to make your wishes clear about who can make decisions on your behalf. With a registered Power of Attorney, you can appoint someone to make decisions or take action on your behalf, should you become unable to do so. The person who is given this authority is known as an ‘attorney’. Having a Power of Attorney in place allows you, or your parent, to stay in control of your affairs now and make things easier for loved ones in the future.
Why does Power of Attorney matter?
With soaring dementia rates (someone is diagnosed every three minutes in the UK), it’s more important than ever for people to act while they’re still mentally fit. It is highly recommended that people not only put their own Power of Attorney in place, but also support ageing parents by helping them to get their affairs sorted too.
How to have the tough conversation
People can get very nervous about discussing loss of mental capacity or end of life planning. Here are a few things to think about before you start the conversation with your parent or other loved ones:
- Bringing up the subject can be tough. You could start by asking “what do you think about / have you heard of Power of Attorney?” or by talking about your own plans.
- Choose an appropriate time and place – no one should feel pressured into arranging Power of Attorney. Sometimes it’s easier one to one.
- This might not be an on-the-spot decision, so take time to look into the options and think about it. Get advice from professionals or research the subject yourself.
- This is an important issue, so be persistent.
Top tips for those considering a Power of Attorney
Powers of Attorney are simple to arrange if you know what you’re doing.
- Power of Attorney lasts for a lifetime, so the sooner you complete the paperwork, the safer you will be. By setting up a Power of Attorney when you’re mentally fit, you’re saving time and emotional distress for your loved ones if the time comes when you’re no longer able to make your own decisions.
- People don’t always realise that there are two types of Power of Attorney: one for finance and property, and another for health and welfare. The processes are similar for both. The biggest difference is that the health and welfare one can only be used after you lose capacity, not before, whereas the property and finance type can either be instated at the time of registration or when you are no longer able to make your own decisions – it’s up to you.
- There’s no specific age as to when you should get a Power of Attorney. Young people can lose capacity through accidents. If someone is diagnosed with a condition likely to cause loss of mental capacity, they should act quickly and apply as soon as possible.
- Before applying for a Power of Attorney, it’s important to select the right person for the job. It should be someone you trust to understand your wishes. Most people choose their spouse, partner, relatives or a close friend. Attorneys must be over 18 years of age and must not be bankrupt. You can select more than one person and have joint-attorneys.
- An important part of the application process is a face to face appointment with a consultant, who will determine that you understand what you’re doing before proceeding with the paperwork. Without full mental capacity, the consultant will be unable to process your Power of Attorney. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that a Power of Attorney is organised in advance.
- Registering a Power of Attorney when you are younger and mentally able ensures that it will be ready to use if urgently needed. Without a Power of Attorney, it can be complicated and stressful for loved ones to legally make decisions on your behalf, should you become unable to. They will have to apply to the court to grant permission and you will not have a say in who is appointed to make decisions for you.
Who can you ask for help?
Setting up a Power of Attorney on your own can be fairly complex, so it pays to ask an expert, who can offer a full Power of Attorney service and also register the documents with the Office of the Public Guardian.