What is power of attorney?
Power of attorney is the right for an individual to entrust a close colleague or loved one with their decision making ability for an extended period of time. This is caused by a number of predicaments and can deal with various different issues.The power of attorney is the document that states permission for an appointed person to make decisions on someone else’s behalf.
The right to exclude oneself from decision-making has to be applied for via the Office of the Public Guardian, and only then can they legally act as an appointed trustee. This can be used for a number of reasons, including mental health issues, illness or even a busy schedule. Due to complications surrounding mental health issues and incapacity, in the UK, applicants will often try to achieve lasting power of attorney, which is ill effected by any extenuating factors. It usually occurs in two defined types.
Types of power of attorney
The first type of lasting power of attorney is regarding property affairs. In this instance, either one or many people are entrusted to take full charge of a tenant’s property. This can be down to a number of reasons, including disability, illness or inexperience in the field. Usually in the latter instance they would merely seek advice on the issues, however it is not unheard of to hand power of attorney to a professional on these occasions.
The other instance when someone would seek to hand the power of attorney to another individual is to look after his or her welfare. This word often promotes a preconception of ill health, however this is only one of the reasons that people hand over rights to make decisions on their welfare. Severe disability or during the recovery from an accident or stroke can be other occasions to which this is sought. In these cases the patient is in no state to make reasoned decisions themselves so they hand it over to a loved one or professional.
Who to give power of attorney to?
Choosing who or how many people to hand the power of attorney to can be exceedingly tricky. Not only are you making a huge decision yourself by entrusting them with the responsibility but it also can place a burden on them.
The best advice that we can give is to stick with people whom you trust entirely. Look at the state of their lives and how they conduct their finances before giving them the green light to have a go with yours. It is also occasionally a good idea to grant the privilege to more than one person. This prevents a single individual abusing their position and, if you have made a misjudgement in character, then it isn’t as catastrophic.
The only thing further to mention, is that you make a long thought out decision, as once you have registered it with the appropriate authorities, it can be very difficult to revoke.
Why would you need power of attorney?
You may be wondering to why people would want to exercise their right to attorney. Trusting someone to deal with their most intimate of issues and making them responsible for potentially all of your earnings seem quite a remarkable thing to do. However, in most cases this is done because the person in question has little or no choice in the matter. Their personal circumstances dictate that it is advisable that they have another person make the majority of their legal decisions.
Often an instance will arise where someone with either a severe learning disability or mental impairment will either need to sign over the right to someone to either make decisions on their own personal welfare or assets which they own. For example if a young adult with Down syndrome were to inherit a large amount of property from a deceased parent, it would be in the best interest for them to appoint someone to handle it for them. They will not possess the capabilities to adequately manage the projects and so they hand over the power of attorney to someone else. This can be said for anyone with any severe learning difficulty or ailment.
Those too weak or ill to fairly represent themselves can also use the power of attorney. An unfortunate example of when this is commonly used is through the refusal of treatment. Often a terminally ill patient will entrust their spouse or partner to instruct the hospital staff not to take steps to keep them alive through the use of machines.
As unimaginable as this may sound, often these people have been in 24-hour pain for a number of months and are finally seeking a release from it. By registering their other half to the power of attorney, they can refuse treatment for them, even if they themselves cannot make the conscious decision.