If you suddenly became unable to look after yourself – be it due to illness or an unfortunate accident – do you know who would be responsible for making those important decisions in regards to your care and your current affairs? It isn’t necessarily a nice thing to think about but still something very important to consider. For some, the choice of who would take on these duties is obvious but even so, the hurdle of them even being able to do so is still there. This is where having a Power of Attorney is essential.
What is a Power of Attorney?
- Power of Attorney is a written document that includes a certificate, which is usually signed by your solicitor (although can also be signed by a doctor).
- Power of Attorney lets you name the person/people whom you would want to take actions or make decisions on your behalf, should you become unable to due to illness or injury.
You might think that if you were unable to care for yourself, your spouse or adult-children would automatically be able to take on these duties but unfortunately this is not the case – no one has the automatic right to take actions on your behalf without legal authority.
However decisions such as moving to care homes, life-sustaining treatment, paying bills and selling property can be made (should they ever need to be) by those who you choose, with a degree of ease, thanks to a Power of Attorney.
Why should I have a Power of Attorney?
There is a misconception that you only need to consider Power of Attorney when you approach old age, presumably as this is when illnesses like Dementia would commonly start to set in. However, Power of Attorney must be put in place whilst someone is still of sound mind & health, and able to make decisions & understand what they are doing. Because of that, it’s never too early to have a Power of Attorney in place.
Life is also unpredictable and although you may think you have years ahead of you, things can change in a heartbeat. No one ever expects that they could be in a life-changing accident, or suffer an illness that leaves them incapable of caring for themselves. And all too often when this does happen, it can leave families battling to decide what is best, in terms of care, welfare and financial matters.
By having a Power of Attorney in place, it means you have taken steps to ensure that if the worst was to happen, a little bit of stress can be lifted from those around you, by knowing they can take care of what needs to be done, without the countless hurdles that can be encountered if not.
If you did not have a Power of Attorney in place, your family may have to go to court to gain the authority to act on your behalf.
Who can be on my Power of Attorney?
The people you name on your Power of Attorney are known as your “Attorney(s)”.
Most people will list a family member as their Attorney; typically a adult child, or a spouse. However you can choose anyone you like to be an Attorney including family, friends, partner/spouse or a solicitor.
You can also have more than one person named as an Attorney. If you are naming a partner/spouse, it is always sensible to have another person named too, in the event that both you and your partner/spouse were involved in an incident that left the two of you relying on a Power of Attorney.
There is no limit to the number of people you can name on a Power of Attorney, and you can assign certain duties to certain individuals. But it is also worth not going overboard and complicating matters with too many Attorneys, potentially causing conflict between individuals.
When should I create a Power of Attorney?
In Scotland, you have put in place a Power of Attorney from age 16. Although the likelihood is that at this age it won’t be at the forefront of your mind. That being said, it is worth doing as soon as you consider it. There’s no such thing as putting a Power of Attorney in place too early in life. You can also do an updated Power of Attorney at a later date, if for example you marry and would like your spouse to be an Attorney.
It is particularly worthwhile having a Power of Attorney in place when it comes to buying a home, or having children. Both of these life events come with financial and welfare implications, and it is always worth taking steps to ease any unnecessary worry from those around you, should the worst happen.
That being said, having a Power of Attorney isn’t only for those who have money to protect. It is also important for ensuring your care and welfare.
How do I get a Power of Attorney?
It’s really simple to put a Power of Attorney in place. Start by getting in touch with your solicitor; they will then discuss with you what is involved in setting up your Power of Attorney and who you’d like listed as an Attorney(s) on it.
Following this, your solicitor will draft up a Power of Attorney document for you to review and as long as you’re happy with what is put together, you can then move forward with making it official. This will involve you signing with a witness and your solicitor registering your Power of Attorney with the Public Guardian.
It is also important that you inform your Attorney(s) that you have named them on your Power of Attorney; both so they don’t get a shock should they ever be called upon but also so you can discuss matters like what to do with your finances and what kind of care you would like to receive, should it ever come to that.
For more information or to start putting your own Power of Attorney in place, get in touch today at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0131 554 6244.