We are all focused on the cost of living just now, feeling the impact of rising energy bills and food costs in particular. High inflation is also impacting on a lot of other aspects of life too, clothing, transport and socialising to name but a few.
There is a lot of information out there about how to reduce your energy bills, heat your home more efficiently, use appliances differently (or not at all). It can be easier to reduce costs in some areas than in others – swapping to cheaper brands, or shopping in a different supermarket, cutting back on treats etc. But then there are other potential savings which can prove more complicated and time consuming. Shopping around to find out if you can get a better deal on home and car insurance, or even your broadband provider, can feel like quite a task. The same can be said of finding out what additional support you might be entitled to and how to claim it. Keeping an eye on interest rates to see if you might get a better deal for savings, and, indeed ensuring your pensions and other investments are working for you are all worth doing too.
It could be a lot easier if you had someone assisting you, making those phone calls and enquiries on your behalf. But we all know what it's like – the bank, insurance provider, energy supplier will insist that they only speak to you. The good news is, there is another way!
A power of attorney
Powers of attorney are not just for people who have lost capacity – the financial and administrative provisions can be acted on while you have capacity as long as you give your permission to the person you have appointed within the document itself. Powers of attorney ("POA") are usually drafted to be wide ranging and flexible, and you can ask your attorney to deal with specific items or transactions for you if you wish. A well drafted POA will cover things such as dealing with investments, insurance, pensions and tax returns, as well as day to day items such as paying bills and managing your bank accounts. Whilst you have capacity, however, all of this must only be acted upon by your attorney with your permission. You are very much in control, and it's not an 'all or nothing' situation - you might decide to ask your attorney to help with only one or two transactions, for example. But the extra assistance could be invaluable.
Most people have a POA which also includes personal welfare matters, such as making decisions on medical treatment, care, accommodation and so on, and often the same person is appointed as attorney on this side of things as for financial matters. However, there is a key difference – your attorney can only act in personal welfare matters if you have lost capacity. You cannot ask them to make these decisions if you are capable of making them yourself, although of course you are free to ask for advice and to talk things through whenever you need to.
A financial power of attorney
POAs can also be set up so that you appoint someone to deal with your finances and someone else to deal with your personal welfare. This can be helpful if you feel there are people who know you best and whom you would trust the most with your personal welfare and others who might be better placed to deal with the financial aspects of life.
Who should I appoint as my attorney?
It's also possible to appoint two or more people to act as your attorneys. If so, a flexible POA will allow for them to act individually too (ie jointly and severally) so that you don't need to have both acting together at all times. The key is to appoint people you trust, who know you well and understand your preferences and wishes, and who would communicate well with you and with each other. Attorneys are obliged to consult with you as much as possible, and with each other when giving assistance or making decisions on your behalf. It's reassuring to note that there is a code of practice for attorneys, and guidance is provided by the Office of the Public Guardian who can also investigate if there is suspicion of wrongdoing.
Most of the time, attorneys do a good job and there are no concerns, but circumstances can change so it's good to know that even after your POA has been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, it can be revoked by you and a new one put in place – so long as you retain capacity. It's worth reviewing regularly to make sure you're comfortable that you have the right people appointed, for peace of mind and for the additional assistance which could be so useful at times like these.
If you would like to discuss putting a POA in place, or reviewing your existing POA, please get in touch.