Acting as a power of attorney
Talking about setting up a power of attorney is a great idea if you want to look after the interests of a loved one in the future, but it’s not an easy conversation to start...
Having ‘the chat’ about the future of your loved ones is one of the most tricky subjects to broach, particularly when you may be talking about the possibility of their health deteriorating.
No one wants to think about a time when they might not be well enough, or have enough ‘mental capacity’ to make decisions for themselves. But some find it comforting to know that if they are unable to look after their own affairs in the future, then something is in place that gives someone they trust permission to make decisions on their behalf.
And the reality is that the sooner you begin these conversations, the easier it is to put something in place that everyone is happy with.
WHAT IS A POWER OF ATTORNEY?
A power of attorney is a legal document that lets someone who you nominate make decisions on your behalf. There are different types of power of attorney, depending on where you live and what you decisions you would like someone else to make. You can read more about the different types here.
Don’t put off difficult decisions
The longer you leave it, the harder it can become to talk about setting up a power of attorney. And you may find that it takes a few attempts to begin a proper discussion. But the reality is, that if the time comes when a power of attorney is needed, you may already have several other stressful factors that you will be juggling. So having one already in place can be invaluable.
PICK THE RIGHT TIME
Choosing the right time to begin these conversations can be crucial. If you want everyone to be in the best frame of mind to address these difficult topics, finding a time and a place when everyone is relaxed and where everyone feels comfortable can be quite important. Think about when and where people are most calm and try to work around that. Make a cup of tea and ease in gently.
HAVE AN AGENDA
It can be really difficult to keep a clear head when you are talking about something emotional, so sometimes it helps to write things down before you begin. Then you can make sure that you’ve covered everything that you need to (even if it takes a few discussions). You might want to start with:
- Why you think it’s important to have a power of attorney in place (just in case).
- What’s most important to them.
- What they would like the power of attorney to cover.
- What assets they might want you to look after in the future and where they keep records of them.
- If they are a couple: whether they have any joint assets that they might need to split in the future?
It’s important to appreciate the emotional element of these conversations and how stressful your loved ones may find this. Consider the fact that this may take several conversations before you start making any progress, but remember to persevere. While this seems challenging now, remember that if you leave this too late and are faced with making these decisions when your loved one doesn’t have the ability to make decisions for themselves, it will suddenly become much more stressful.
If it becomes too much, get advice
Sometimes it can become too stressful to do all of this on your own. If you find the process of drawing up a power of attorney too much, it might be worth paying a solicitor who can do it for you and help you to navigate the complexities of the system. They can advise you on what the power of attorney should cover and what else you need to be aware of and may set your mind at ease when it comes to knowing that you’ve covered everything.
REGISTERING AND USING THE POWER OF ATTORNEY
Many powers of attorney will need to be registered before they can be used. In England and Wales the Office of the Public Guardian offer an online service where you can register. This can take a while, so it’s worth factoring this in to your planning.
Then, each time you need to use it you’ll need to provide the document itself. This may involve:
- booking an appointment to present the power of attorney or sending it off in the post,
- bringing along your own ID, and
- using the document each time you speak to a new organisation.
If you are likely to use it fairly regularly, it’s probably worth paying for certified copies too. That way you won’t need to wait for the power of attorney to be returned each time.
Each organisation that you deal with might ask for different documentation. It’s worth keeping a note of this so that you know what you need for next time. At Just the main things that we will need to see before we can accept the power of attorney are:
- The original copy, or an original ink certified copy.
This means that the document will need to be certified on every page by a solicitor, stock broker, registered financial intermediary, donor (providing they have mental capacity) or notary public (someone who is authorised to certify documents and is usually also a solicitor). To certify it they will need to see the original and the copy to confirm that the copy is accurate.
- A relevant power of attorney.
If you are representing someone on matters related to property, the power of attorney must give you the authority to do this. A health and welfare power of attorney, for example, wouldn’t do this. You can read more about the different powers of attorney and what they do, here.
- Proof of your identity.
To meet the UK anti money laundering requirements, we need to be sure that you are who you say you are!
All of these things can take time, so the most important thing to remember is it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to use a power of attorney straight away. Be patient, keep really good records, and consider getting a stock of certified copies if you are planning to use the power of attorney with several different organisations.