Many people find the legal concept of power of attorney daunting, particularly when it comes up during urgent discussions about a loved one’s health and wellbeing. To others, it’s just one aspect of forward planning for possible life events.
However you feel about it, arranging power of attorney can make decisions about finances, property and health much more straightforward in the future. Your chosen advocate should only ever make a choice for you if you are unable to make that decision when it needs to be taken.
This guide can help if you are considering the best way to start the legal process ensuring power of attorney, and what to be aware of along the way.
What is power of attorney?
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that allows you to appoint one or more people as attorneys who can be called upon to help with your affairs if you become mentally incapacitated as a result of severe illness or accident.
In October of 2017, the LPA framework replaced the previous Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) framework. EPAs are still valid legal documents, but an EPA must be registered when the person loses capacity.
When might you need power of attorney?
If someone can’t manage their finances or make decisions any more, they will need someone else to do this on their behalf. This might be because of dementia, a stroke, a brain injury, a coma or another condition that affects mental capacity.
However, an LPA can (and should, if possible) be set up before the person is unable to manage their finances or make decisions any more. They can choose that power of attorney only begins when they have lost mental capacity.
If someone loses mental capacity without a Lasting Power of Attorney in place, then a ‘deputy’ must be appointed by a Court to make decisions on their behalf, which is a more difficult process. That’s why it’s really important to have the conversation about power of attorney early, while all parties can agree to it.
Everyone should consider a Lasting Power of Attorney, as illness and accidents can strike at any age. You only need to be over 18 to set one up.
The two types of power of attorney, and how they work
There are two categories of power of attorney:
- property and financial affairs
- health and welfare.
Both involve similar processes. It’s important to note, however, that each type of attorney uses separate legal procedures with independent documents.
One person can cover both welfare and financial matters, or different attorneys can be appointed to each.
If you appoint a joint attorney, you should also name a substitute attorney in the event that your first choice cannot continue.
In Scotland, you can opt to combine both types of power of attorney — finance and property, alongside health and welfare — into one role. For more information on how power of attorney operates within Scotland, visit http://www.publicguardian-scotland.gov.uk
How to apply for lasting power of attorney
Before you start the power of attorney process, which involves submitting a power of attorney form, you’ll need to decide whether to hire a solicitor or go it alone. If you’re at all unsure, it’s a good idea to talk to a solicitor beforehand.
Doing the paperwork yourself may save on legal fees, but you’ll be responsible for completing the documents to a high standard and any errors could cause issues in the future.
You can apply online for power of attorney on GOV.UK:
- In England and Wales, when you make a power of attorney, you need someone to act as a ‘Certificate Provider’ to confirm you’re capable of making this decision. This person can’t be a family member and needs to be a person with relevant professional skills, such as a doctor, lawyer or social worker. Alternatively, you can also ask someone you’ve known for at least two years.
- If you live in Scotland, the certificate provider must be either a doctor or a solicitor who is registered to practice law in Scotland.
- In Northern Ireland, you do not need a certificate provider.
Once completed by you or your solicitor, the power of attorney documents will be ready for legal registration, which usually takes about eight weeks.
How much does lasting power of attorney cost?
The cost of registering a lasting power of attorney differs across the UK and is charged per document, so you would need to pay for two registrations to cover finance and property, as well as health and wellbeing.
Per document, here are the costs within each country:
- England and Wales: £82
- Scotland: £77
- Northern Ireland: £127
There may be additional legal fees for preparing the documents.
The registration fee is reduced for people earning less than £12,000 per year and exemptions may be available if you receive certain benefits such as Income Support. Find out more about eligibility for reductions and exemptions.
Who can give me more information about lasting power of attorney?
Citizens Advice can offer face-to-face support on a wide range of issues, including Lasting Power of Attorney.
If arranging power of attorney coincides with looking for care, enter your postcode on www.caresourcer.com for a free searchable directory of local care providers. If you need care urgently, our team of care experts are also available by telephone on freephone 0800 048 8618 to guide you through the process.