Powers of Attorney are legal documents in which you give another person (or persons) power to act on your behalf and take decisions for you. It can be a short term simple arrangement (a General Power of Attorney where, for example, someone is going abroad or is unavailable to sign particular paperwork. It is only valid for 12 months at a time). Alternatively, where the power is intended to last for many years, anticipating a possible loss of the donor’s mental capacity (a Lasting Power of Attorney or LPA).
This authorises the nominated attorney to make decisions and sign documents on another’s behalf. Until fairly recently this was a straightforward enough procedure but the modern form is complex and has to contain the names of one or more relatives or friends to be notified when the LPA is registered (see below) and a formal statement by a ‘Certificate Provider’ (who can be a friend or a professional such as your doctor) that the donor understands what is being signed and is not doing so under duress.
The LPA cannot be used until it is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG)* to whom a fee is payable (there are certain fee exemptions). It can be registered straightaway or when actually required. (Given delays at the OPG, it is usually safer to register at once).
The presence of a registered LPA is of major assistance if any event occurs which prevents donors from dealing with their own affairs ( eg a stroke, accident or mental incapacity) so is thoroughly recommended. It is often (but not necessarily) initiated at the same time as making a Will.
An attorney under a general power of attorney can make financial and paperwork decisions on behalf of the donor, but only whilst the donor has mental capacity.
This is necessarily a brief ‘over-view’ of the current situation. Do feel free to contact Jonathan Margarson for more information.