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What is a Power of Attorney and do I really need one?

 


What is a Power of Attorney and do I really need one?

Most of us know we should have a Will in preparation for the end of life but a lot of people aren’t aware of the importance of having Enduring Powers of Attorney in place. In today’s blog, we’re going to go explain what a Power of Attorney is and why you need one.

Enduring Powers of Attorney are legal documents that help you manage your affairs if you experience cognitive decline (where you do not have capacity, or for some reason you are unable to make decisions for yourself), or in some cases even while you are still of sound mind. Your attorney is typically a spouse, family member, friend or professional such as a solicitor, accountant or a trustee company.

There are three main kinds of enduring powers of attorney

  1. An Enduring Financial Power of Attorney gives your attorney the power to manage your legal and financial affairs. They can do things on your behalf like pay your bills, access your bank accounts, and sell your investments or home.
  2. An Enduring Personal Power of Attorney allows a guardian or parent to place you in a nursing home, and decide your daily living issues such as diet, medication and dress.
  3. An Enduring Medical Power of Attorney allows you to appoint a person as your medical ‘agent’. Your agent can make the decision to turn off your life support and refuse medical treatment on your behalf. When choosing a medical agent you should discuss your wishes with them in a clear and detailed manner.

Living to a ripe old age is a relatively new phenomenon. For this reason, people will often not consider making Enduring Powers of Attorney earlier in life, but rather, leave it until it is too late.

Elder Abuse is on the rise

Unfortunately, with frailty comes vulnerability and the opportunity for others to take advantage of such vulnerability.  It is sadly unsurprising therefore that Elder Abuse is on the rise. At David Davis, we often deal with cases where adult children of elderly parents who have lost capacity are in conflict over who should make decisions on behalf of their parent/s. Having the right formal documentation in place can prevent such conflict and ensure your affairs are handled how you want them to be.

For example, there is often a grey area when an older person begins to lose capacity and adult children continue to take money from them, later arguing that the funds were a “gift” and not a “loan”.

This is precisely the time when older people need reliable assistance with their finances by someone who will act to prevent the loss of much needed funds. Attorneys must always act in the best interest of the older person, otherwise criminal penalties could apply.

Aside from giving you simple peace of mind, appointing someone you trust to manage your affairs is a safe guard against elder abuse. It is also one of the best ways to ensure you continue to live with dignity and maintain your independence for as long as possible.

* Please note that significant changes are expected in early 2019 to laws and options relating to the appointment of medical agents including the ability to make Advance Care Directives.

If you’d like advice or assistance in relation to Elder Abuse or you’d like to have your Enduring Powers of Attorney prepared, feel free to get in touch directly with today’s blog writer, David Davis.


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