Naming a Power of Attorney is a crucial step in ensuring security and stability should something unexpected happen to you. It’s not something anyone wants to think about, but, much like writing a will, organising a Power of Attorney should be something everyone does.
What is a Power of Attorney?
First, let’s look at why a Power of Attorney is so important.
If you’re unable to make decisions dues to illness or injury, a Power of Attorney is someone you’ve named to make decisions on your behalf should this happen. It can be uncomfortable to think about and we often think it won’t happen to us. But planning for the unexpected can help ensure your security.
A Power of Attorney should be someone that you trust. People often choose a partner or their children, but it can be anyone. You can name more than one person should you choose to.
There are two types of Power of Attorney, they cover different decisions and you should ensure you have both in place.
- Health and welfare: This Power of Attorney gives someone the responsibility to make decisions about areas such as medical care, moving into a care home or life-sustaining treatment.
- Property and financial affairs: This type of Power of Attorney will be able to make decisions relating to managing bank accounts, paying bills, collecting your pension and selling your home, for example.
Some people worry about naming a Power of Attorney, but a health and welfare Power of Attorney can only be used if you’re unable to make your own decisions. A Property and Financial Affairs Power of Attorney can be used as soon as it’s registered but only with your permission. Without one in place, it can place additional stress on your family and they may have to go through a lengthy court process. It could also potentially leave you in a vulnerable position.
A lack of awareness
Not named a Power of Attorney? You’re not alone. It’s an important task, but research from Royal London suggests that it’s a decision that many adults are putting off or are unaware of.
- Half of the adult population are not aware of Health and Welfare Power of Attorneys
- In comparison, 76% of people are aware of Property and Financial Affairs Power of Attorneys
- Just one in three people think they fully understand what a Power of Attorney does
- Only 23% of women and 17% of men have discussed setting one up
The most common reason for not registering a Power of Attorney was people not thinking they are at an age where they need to think about it (46%). Whilst more commonly associated with the elderly, accidents and illnesses can happen at every stage of life. Taking the time to put measures in places should something happen should be considered a priority, whether you’re raising a young family or enjoying retirement.
Mona Patel, Consumer Spokesperson for Royal London, said: “It may be uncomfortable to think about not having the mental capacity to make decisions, but it is important to plan in case this happens.
“Appointing a family member or trusted friend to make financial or welfare decisions on your behalf stops the responsibility failing to the state and loved ones having to apply to the Court of Protection, which can be emotionally difficult, time-consuming and expensive.”
How to register your Power of Attorney
If you’re ready to register a Power of Attorney, following these steps can help:
1. Speak to your loved ones: Acting as a Power of Attorney can feel like a lot of responsibility. Your first step should be to talk to those that you want to name as Power of Attorney, as well as other loved ones. It’s also an opportunity to let your wishes be known to those that may make decisions on your behalf in the future. It can be a difficult conversation, but discussing areas such as preferred care options, whether you’d want to sell property, and priorities can give both parties peace of mind.
2. Contact the Office of Public Guardian: To get started, you’ll need to access the relevant forms and information pack. These can be obtained through the Office of Public Guardian. You can either download and print out the documents or fill them in online.
3. DIY or professional advice: With the forms in hand, you have two options. You can either take responsibility and fill them out yourself or seek professional advice from a solicitor. Using a solicitor will cost you but if you’re uncertain of the process or your affairs are complex it can be worthwhile and give you peace of mind.
4. Get the forms signed by a certificate provider: The forms will then need to be signed by a certificate provider. This is someone who confirms you’re acting of your own free will, have the mental capacity to make such decisions and haven’t been placed under pressure. A certificate provider can either be someone you know well or a professional person, such as a doctor or solicitor.
5. Register your Power of Attorney: Before a Power of Attorney can be used, it must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. You must register it whilst you have the mental capacity to make your own decisions. There is a fee of £82 to register and the process takes around nine weeks.
A Power of Attorney should form part of your wider estate and financial plan. To discuss your next steps in the context of your personal goals, please get in contact.
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