A power of attorney is a legal document - a deed of authority granted by an individual to someone you trust e.g. a family member or friend, who can deal on your behalf with aspects of your health and wellbeing, financial and property matters and/or personal welfare. It’s a bit like having something of a personal legal ‘safety net’ to help you if you are not able to look after your own affairs.
None of us know what the future brings. No one can predict if you will ever develop dementia later in life or even in middle age. In the same way, no one knows if any of us will be in an accident, or suffer a serious illness like a stroke or multiple sclerosis, which could leave us unfit mentally or physically to look after our own affairs. No one has the automatic authority to make decisions about your and your life if you lose the ability to make decisions for yourself, unless a Power of Attorney has been set up in advance.
In order to protect against these kind of risks, a power of attorney can be prepared by a lawyer and signed by an individual, and left safe in case it is ever needed, which could be years later. In the absence of a power of attorney, the family of a sick or injured relative has to go to court to get a guardianship order, which can be quite a prolonged process and cause a lot of stress, to all of those involved and cost a lot of money too!
If you are thinking of having a power of attorney put in place, or just want to know more about the process of doing so it is a good idea to arrange to speak to or see a lawyer. Many law firms offer free initial consultations, when you can talk through all the issues and concerns that you have in confidence.
More information can be obtained from the links below:
The Citizen’s Advice Bureau: