A power of attorney is a document in which you authorise one or more people to make decisions and sign documents on your behalf if you cannot do so yourself.
A Lasting Power of Attorney (usually referred to as a ‘LPA’) will last right up until your death. There are two types. Firstly there is a property and financial affairs LPA. This allows the named attorneys to pay your bills, look after your savings and investments and deal with your house. Secondly there is a health and welfare LPA. This authorises the named attorneys to make decisions regarding your medical treatment and where you should live.
If you want your attorneys to deal with both financial and health/welfare matters then you will need two separate LPAs. This is because the two types of LPA operate differently. The health and welfare LPA can only be used if you are unable to make a particular decision yourself. This might be because you are unconscious or perhaps suffering from dementia. The property and finance LPA is not restricted in this way. For example you might need your attorneys to sign financial documents on your behalf if you have injured your hand and cannot sign personally.
You should name individuals who understand your circumstances and who you trust to make decisions on your behalf. You can appoint family members or friends. You can also appoint a professional adviser such as your solicitor (although this would only usually be appropriate for the property and finance LPA). It is a good idea to appoint at least two attorneys. Most people name between two and four.
You can choose whether your attorneys should act ‘jointly’ (all must make decisions together) or ‘jointly and severally’ (each attorney can act individually). It is also possible to appoint one person as first named attorney with another person nominated as substitute. Each type of appointment has benefits and disadvantages.
Once you and your attorneys have signed the LPA it has to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before it can be used. The registration process normally takes about 12 weeks.
A solicitor will be able to discuss your particular circumstances and help you decide whether you need one or both types of LPA. The solicitor can help you select the right attorneys and discuss how they should be appointed. The solicitor will guide you on the wording of specific preferences and instructions that are relevant to your needs. One of the requirements of setting up a LPA is that an individual has to certify that you fully understand the purpose and effect of the LPA and are not being pressurized by a third party to complete it. Your solicitor can complete this certificate and then apply to register the LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian.