We recommend that everyone put a power of attorney in place, regardless of your age or circumstances. During World Alzheimer's Month we want to raise awareness about how important it is to have a power of attorney and what 5 things you need to consider to put one in place.
We have previously blogged on the importance of powers of attorney and what happens if you don't have one but you need one. Putting in place a power of attorney is a quick and straightforward process which we can help you with.
1. Do you want to put in place a single or combined power of attorney?
There are two types of power of attorney: continuing and welfare. A continuing power allows someone else to look after your financial assets. A welfare power allows someone to make decisions about your personal care. You can make a single power of attorney (continuing or welfare) or a combined continuing and welfare power of attorney. We would recommend putting a combined power of attorney in place.
2. Who you do want your attorneys to be?
We recommend appointing more than one attorney, or alternatively a substitute attorney in the event your primary attorney is unable to act for you. It is important to appoint people you trust to look after you and your affairs. This could be a family member, a friend or a professional. If you appoint more than one attorney, they can all act together and also individually (which can make matters administratively easier).
3. Do you want to include any particular powers?
There are some powers in a power of attorney that we bring to your attention, including allowing an attorney to make gifts on your behalf, borrowing or lending funds, and having access to your will. We have previously blogged on the importance of including the power to make gifts for an attorney. We recommend that attorneys be granted wide powers and for them to exercise their good sense when acting on the granter's behalf. If you are appointing people you trust to be your attorneys, you should trust them to act sensibly.
4. Do you want to include a living will?
A living will or advance directive is a statement of your wishes as to what treatment should or should not be given to you in certain circumstances. It would usually indicate that your life is not to be artificially prolonged if you are unconscious or there is no reasonable prospect of recovery. This can be a help to doctors or to your welfare attorneys in deciding what to do in specific circumstances.
A living will can be prepared as a separate document but can also be incorporated as part of a welfare power of attorney.
5. You need a doctor or a solicitor to sign the document
In order for a power of attorney to be put in place, a doctor or practising solicitor must sign a certificate confirming that you understand the power of attorney (and have the capacity to understand the nature and effect of the document) and that no one is forcing you to put the power of attorney in place. This requires a meeting with a doctor or a solicitor.
Always be prepared
A power of attorney is usually associated with old age and losing capacity due to illness, such as Alzheimer's. However, a power of attorney can be useful if, for example, you're in an accident and unable to look after yourself, even for a short duration. Don't leave it too late. A power of attorney can only be put in place while you still have the capacity and the ability to understand. Whatever your age is, whatever the value of your estate is, and whatever your circumstances are - prepare for your power of attorney.