What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that you can request. The document provides information about the person (or persons) that an individual would like to be able to make all legal decisions for them, or to act on their behalf, in the event of them no longer being able to communicate or make decisions.

There could be several reasons why you would want to put in motion a power of attorney document so that someone else can legally speak on your behalf. It could be a temporary problem that you are facing, with the need for someone to help you pay bills and deal with emergency situations whilst you are receiving treatment in hospital for example. Another reason power of attorney could be sought is to ensure that there are long-term plans in place should you have been diagnosed with dementia, or another type of illness or disease, where you know that there is a distinct possibility of losing mental capacity at some point in the future.

If you fear that your mental capacity will be lost and you won’t be able to make informed decisions in future, you should look to award power of attorney to someone else in specific circumstances.

Your mental capacity relates to your ability to communicate specific decisions that you have come to, at the time where they are needed. You must be able to fully understand all concepts of the decision making process, understanding the need to make a decision, and why you have come to the answer that you have. Mental capacity can be a complex beast, with some people suffering in a way where they understand who they are and can live daily in a comfortable manner, but are unable to understand legal documentation, or to arrange medical treatment for example. In cases of dementia developing, it might not always be necessary for a power of attorney to be given to someone else at first.

What are the different types of power of attorney?

Ordinary Power of Attorney – This ensures that all financial affairs are dealt by someone on your behalf whilst you have mental capacity but require temporary assistance. This could be during an extended holiday, or a hospital stay. You can choose the extent to which an ordinary power of attorney has control, ensuring they only deal with certain financial assets for example.

Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) – There are two types of LPA, one covering your financial decisions, and the other all aspects of your health and care. It comes into effect at a time where you lose your mental capacity or if you no longer want to make decisions for yourself.

Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) – An EPA is only applicable if it was signed prior to 1st October 2007 (the date it was replaced by LPAs). It covers financial and property affairs in the same way as an LPA.

Most people assume that their partner (if married or in a civil partnership) would automatically assume power of attorney if mental capacity has been diminished. This is not the case, and it is always beneficial to seek legal advice from solicitors with expertise in power of attorney.