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Power of Attorney
As healthcare professionals, no-one understands better that the one thing we can all be certain of, in both our personal and professional lives, is that something unexpected will happen… at some point.
The worst case scenario doesn’t bear thinking about… except that it does, if we want to ensure the financial security of our family.
It can help if you can choose someone you trust to have the legal authority to act on your behalf, if necessary.
This is called granting ‘Power of Attorney’, although the person you choose needs no legal qualifications.
You (the ‘donor’) can actually appoint more than one ‘attorney’ to help you make decisions, or to make decisions on your behalf.
You can give them authority to act on your behalf with immediate effect, but need not sign over all responsibility at once. Instead, you can grant authority for them to act only in the event of a certain situation, for example after an accident where you lose the ability to make your own decisions. (This is known as ‘legal capacity’.)
These nominated attorneys can then act for you, if necessary, in either or both of two ‘jurisdictions’, (which you specify in advance)
* Your health and welfare
* Your property and financial affairs
Note that if the person you have in mind is bankrupt, or subject to a Debt Relief Order, they won’t be able to act for you in property and financial affairs.
If you choose more than one person to appoint, you can also decide if they’ll be able to act ‘jointly and severally’, which means each can make a decision on their own. The alternative is to appoint them ‘jointly’, which means before any instruction can be acted upon by a doctor or a bank etc, all must sign their agreement to the decision or instruction.
You can even choose to let them make some decisions ‘jointly’ and others ‘jointly and severally’, so it’s very flexible.
A Power of Attorney has to be over 18, but can otherwise be your friend, a professional advisor, or a family member of your choice – but you must have the ‘legal capacity’ to authorise a Lasting Power of Attorney – so it is something to think about before you actually come to need it.
It’s all part of being prepared and having the peace of mind that comes from knowing, if circumstances require, that those acting for you, your family and your loved ones are the very people you trust most to follow your own wishes.