How to set up a power of attorney

Whether giving or accepting power of attorney, ensure you do it properly

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Nearly four million people in England and Wales have made a power of attorney to give someone else the legal right to manage their affairs when they can no longer do so.

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The person making the power is the “donor” and the person given the power is the attorney. To make a power of attorney you must have what is called “mental capacity”. Many of us will not need it; we will keep our mental capacity. But if dementia or Alzheimer’s does affect us, then having a power of attorney can really help a spouse, partner, or family member deal with our affairs.

If you do not make one and lose your capacity, your affairs are overseen by the Court of Protection.

In England and Wales, there are two sorts of lasting powers of attorney. One deals with health and welfare – for example, the attorney can give or withhold permission for an operation – the other deals with property and financial affairs, so the attorney can manage our money (which must be used for our benefit) as if they were us. In Scotland the system is similar but the terminology is different. In Northern Ireland there is just one enduring power of attorney.

It costs £82 to register a power with the Office of the Public Guardian (so £164 for both). The cost is £79 in Scotland and £137 in Northern Ireland. Some on low incomes can get the fees reduced or exempted. In England and Wales the whole process can now be done online, but you need to know your attorneys and have a person who knows you to certify that you are aware what you’re doing and under no pressure to do it. In Scotland you will need a solicitor.

You can make a power at any time as long as you have mental capacity.

If you have an enduring power of attorney made before 1 October 2007 there’s no need to change it to a lasting power. Enduring powers are still valid – as long as they were made properly.

For information in England and Wales, visit gov.uk and search “power of attorney”.

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In Scotland: go to publicguardian-scotland.gov. uk/power-of-attorney. For Northern Ireland: nidirect.gov.uk and search “power of attorney”.