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You have the power now but that may suddenly change – why everyone should have a Power of Attorney

You have the power now but that may suddenly change – why everyone should have a Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is not just for the elderly. It protects you and your loved ones by allowing them to make decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so yourself.

So many people put off planning when they could be taking steps to have as much control as possible over their lives. At Ness Gallagher we have often seen families approach us at a time of crisis, when their loved ones are in hospital through ill health, don’t have a Power of Attorney (POA) in place and they urgently need  support and help. This is generally following a sudden serious health issue and the family needs to access bank or household accounts and make welfare decisions for their husband or wife or mother or father, but in reality they do not have the legal authority to do so. It is a common misconception that your spouse / partner or 'next of kin' would automatically have the right to deal with your affairs should you be unable to deal with such yourself – but a POA is required well in advance of this moment of crisis to be able to do so.

A Power of Attorney is a legal document which allows you to plan for the future and gives someone you know, trust and love the authority to make decisions about various matters for you if you lose the capacity and are no longer able to do so yourself. Depending on the different type of POA, the person to whom the power is granted can:

  • make medical decisions concerning your health and personal welfare (Welfare PoA);
  • handle financial and legal matters (Continuing PoA);
  • manage your financial affairs and matters of health and welfare (Combined PoA).

You could grant continuing (financial) powers to one person, and welfare powers to another.

Unfortunately nobody knows what is round the corner. A sudden accident could lead to an otherwise healthy person suffering a stroke, or a sudden illness could result in someone having to face an extended hospital stay, making them unable to make decisions for themselves, whether in the long or short term. How will bills get paid? Who will make decisions for your medical treatment? Nobody plans for poor health, therefore everyone should have a POA in place, irrespective of age or circumstances.

If you don’t have a POA, your friends or family will need to apply to the Court to obtain authority to act on your behalf. This can be a lengthy and costly process at what is no doubt already a stressful time.

There’s no substitute for peace of mind. And that comes with knowing you’re prepared for the future. There is no expiry date for a POA, therefore the sooner you get it done, the sooner you can tick that off your 2023 to-do list.