The Importance of Power of Attorney – Giving People The Right to Make Decisions on Your Behalf

For many people who are used to managing their lives and being independent, as they get older they often don’t realise the importance of ensuring that their finances are taken care of should they start to lose their mental capacity and independence.

There may come a time when it becomes impossible for an older person to make essential decisions about the day to day aspects of their lives, especially in relation to such things as bank accounts, property and other financial assets they may have. Although they may hope that their partner or children can make decisions on their behalf, when it comes to finances there are very strict laws in place. Unless you have given what’s called ‘power of attorney’ to a person you can trust, this can create enormous problems for you and your family.

Maria Collins, Managing Director at Home Instead, a company which provides personal non-medical care to older people in their own homes. She says “I can’t emphasise enough how essential it is for senior people to discuss with their family what they want, in regards to their health and lifestyle, should they become unable to make decisions in this regard.

“I set up Home Instead so that people are able to stay at home for as long as they can, even if ageing means that they can no longer look after themselves as well as they once did. We allow people to save enormous sums in care home fees, as well as the added value of people being happy to continue to live in their own homes. However, independence does decline with age and skills diminish. There have been cases of bank accounts being locked, which makes it difficult if not impossible for the family to access much needed funds from their parents to continue their care needs. It is a really big issue – most people don’t realise they need to get Power of Attorney for a parent or elderly relative and by the time they do it’s way too late and costs lots of money.”

Alison Rowley, a solicitor at Pictons says “While you still have the mental capacity you can choose the family or friends you trust to act on your behalf in property and financial matters in case you become incapable of managing your own affairs and making financial decisions. It means you’ve got the security and assurance of knowing you’ve not only got someone who can do it for you, but also that your family or friends don’t have to worry about how to take care of you if you can’t take care of yourself.

“If you do not make a lasting Power of Attorney when you have the ability, your family or friends will have to apply to court of protection for a deputyship. This is a prolonged process and could easily take six months and cost up to £3,000. Only one person can be a deputy, whereas if you have made a Power of Attorney then for example if you have four children they can all act jointly or separately to sign essential documents or make payments on your behalf. I really encourage people who are either ageing or have ageing relatives to give me a call and find out more about it.”