Understanding Power of Attorney
Preparing legal, financial and care arrangements as you or a loved one grow older may seem daunting. Particularly when you’re faced with jargon like “Enduring Guardianship” and “Power of Attorney”. However, having legal arrangements in place that are designed to help ensure you or your loved one’s wishes are carried out, can make things easier.
Organising legal, financial and care arrangements can become increasingly difficult and tiresome as we age. You or your loved one might experience physical or mental challenges, such as poor eyesight or the inability to make sound decisions, that can make managing personal affairs stressful.
Thankfully, there are several legal avenues you can follow if you think you or your loved one may no longer be able to make decisions. The main options include appointing either an Enduring Guardian or Power of Attorney.
In this blog, we explain how a Power of Attorney can help. Read our blog about Enduring Guardianship if you are unsure about the differences.
What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is the legal document you use to appoint a chosen person or trustee organisation to manage your financial, property and legal affairs on your behalf while you are alive.
There are two types of Power of Attorney appointments – Ordinary and Enduring.
An Ordinary Power of Attorney is only in effect while you have capacity to make decisions. If you lose that capacity the Ordinary Power of Attorney appointment will no longer be valid.
To ensure your Attorney can act for you if you lose capacity, you must appoint an Enduring Power of Attorney. This person or organisation can continue to make decisions on your behalf, even after you have lost your capacity.
Your Attorney can act for you in a variety of circumstances, such as:
- while you are away on an extended trip; or
- when you are no longer able to manage your own financial, property or legal affairs.
Unlike an Enduring Guardian, a Power of Attorney cannot make decisions about:
- your health;
- medical treatment; or
That’s why it can sometimes be useful to appoint both an Enduring Guardian and a Power of Attorney.
Do I need a Power of Attorney?
Appointing a Power of Attorney can be handy if you travel and need a trusted person to act on your behalf for property or financial matters. Your Power of Attorney can legally sign binding documents on your behalf and gain access to your bank accounts to pay bills or manage your finances. This is useful if you need help with paying for your home care services or conducting transactions for your home.
A Power of Attorney can also be useful if you become unwell, lose the ability to make decisions for yourself or are no longer able to manage your own affairs.
Appointing an Attorney doesn’t mean you’ll lose control over your financial matters. It means this person has formal authority to manage your financial affairs according to your instructions.
You can cancel or revoke a Power of Attorney appointment at any time, as long as you have the capacity to do so.
How to appoint a Power of Attorney
Each state or territory may have different requirements in relation to appointing a Power of Attorney. Make sure to check your relevant agency for details in your location.
Generally speaking, you can appoint a Power of Attorney by completing a form, signing it and having it witnessed. The person you appoint as your Attorney must also sign the form.
Your form must be witnessed by an eligible person, such as a legal practitioner, Registrar of the Local Court, or Public Trustee official.
The form to appoint an Enduring Power of Attorney is different to the form for an Ordinary Power of Attorney. If you are unsure, speak to a solicitor.
For more information click on the link below that relates to your State or Territory or contact a solicitor.