POA: How should you choose your attorneys?

It’s not an easy thing to think about, but any one of us could lose the capacity to make decisions for ourselves at some point in the future. According to the Alzheimers Society, there are expected to be more than 1 million Dementia sufferers in the UK by 2025.

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that lets you appoint one or more people to make decisions on your behalf if you no longer have the mental capacity to do so for yourself. It gives them the authority to answer important questions and make decisions for you when you are no longer capable.

But how do you choose your attorneys?

It is most common to choose people we trust to take on power of attorney – a partner, family member or a close friend – although it is possible to appoint a professional, such as a solicitor.

The key thing is to make sure that, whoever you appoint, you trust them completely. Should you lose mental capacity they could be deciding everything for you, from what kind of medical or domestic care you receive to how and when your house is sold.

Because an attorney can be expected to handle a range of important, sometimes complicated, personal matters, it’s also best to think about the right person for the job. This matters for your own peace of mind, but it will also avoid putting the people you care about under undue pressure.

Responsibility

Most people are flattered to be asked to hold power of attorney for a partner, family member or close friend. But being an attorney can involve a lot of responsibility and it’s important to talk through what is involved with your prospective attorneys and to give them time to think about whether they are willing to take it on.

For example, attorneys may have to make financial decisions on your behalf; paying bills, handling savings and investments and possibly selling assets. The rules only say they must be 18 and must not have been bankrupt, but they must also act in your best interests and this may be easier for someone who has some experience in financial matters. At the very least, you want to appoint someone who does a good job managing their own money.

Your attorneys may also have to make health and care decisions. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a medical professional that they can call upon to act on their behalf, but it is important to appoint someone who is confident speaking to doctors or nurses and who can communicate any instructions about treatment you agree in advance.

It is also worth considering the location of your attorneys; in many cases, the nearer they live to you, the better. The farther away from you, the more difficult it will be to take care of your business in a timely manner.

Before appointing your attorneys, you may wish to speak to them about how you would like decisions to be made or if you have any beliefs that you want respected. In addition to being someone competent, you need to be sure your attorney understands your wishes and beliefs and will do their best to see them carried out.

Best for the job

It can be tempting to think about appointing your attorneys as a demonstration of respect or affection, but try to avoid being too sentimental about the decision. Think instead about who you think will be best at looking after your interests.

If you’re not sure if someone is the right person, have a conversation with them to talk about the responsibilities involved, the scope of your financial and legal affairs and any preferences you might have for your health and care. That could help you decide if they are the right person for the job.

Golden Charter arranges Power of Attorney for all sorts of people including many existing customers who already have other later life planning products like Wills, Trusts and funeral plans with us. Find out more by visiting Golden Charter's Power of Attorney service page or by calling us free on 0800 171 2967.