A power of attorney is a legal document which allows you to plan for the future. It's drawn up when you have the capacity to do so.
It gives another person, known as the attorney, the authority to deal with aspects of your affairs. This could relate to financial/property matters and/or personal welfare.
Types of power of attorney
There are two types of power of attorney:
Power of attorney relating to your financial/property affairs is known as a 'continuing power of attorney' and may be given with the intention of taking effect immediately and continuing on you becoming incapable. Or you can decide you only want it to begin if you become incapable.
Welfare power of attorney allows someone you have appointed to make welfare decisions for you, and these powers can't be exercised until such time as you have lost the capacity to make these decisions.
The power of attorney document must be certified by a solicitor or a medical practitioner. They must interview the person granting the power of attorney before they sign the document. This is to make sure they're aware of what they're doing and are not under undue influence.
Powers of attorney – those which are to continue or begin in the event of incapacity – can't take effect until they've been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian.
You can decide you only want it to begin if you become incapable, and can specify how you want your incapacity to be determined.
Why you might need power of attorney
Without a power of attorney, nobody has an automatic right to make decisions on your behalf if you can no longer do so yourself. Someone might have to go to court for a guardianship or intervention order before they could act on your behalf.