When it comes to planning your estate, Power of Attorney might spring to mind. With it, might come anxieties about giving up control over your estate, your assets and ultimately, your life. But what powers does a POA actually have over these important decisions, and when do they come into play?
Understanding exactly what you’re signing up for is always important when it comes to signing the dotted line. But- unlike marriage, divorce or a property purchase- when it comes to end of life there's rarely a do-over opp.
Appointing a POA is one of the best ways to ensure those around you get it right when it matters most. It takes off that pressure, gives you peace of mind and aligns your wishes with decisions which impact you, and your death.
We don’t want misconceptions blocking these important life (and death) provisions. So, with some help from our specialist law firm, we’ve got a POA roundup on everything you need to know and consider when appointing for this position.
Let's start with the basics…
A power of attorney is a legal document that allows you (the principal) to appoint another person (the attorney or agent) to act on your behalf. Yes, that’s a lot of words. But what it really boils down to; is giving someone else permission to take the reins and associated decisions if you aren't able to.
This can be for general or specific decisions, effective immediately or activated when certain conditions are met. Commonly, this would be lost mental capacity due to health deterioration or accidents.
Despite the name, the powers on you to decide the scope and timing of your POA. Generally, this will grant authority to make important life decisions. However, you have autonomy on deciding who takes control of what, and when. Here's a few examples of what a POA may be granted authority on:
Financial Matters: With a power of attorney, your appointed agent can handle all financial affairs of your estate; such as managing bank accounts, paying bills, collecting debts, and filing tax returns.
Property Management: If specified in the power of attorney, the agent can buy, sell, lease, or manage real estate or other valuable assets on your behalf.
Medical Decisions: A medical power of attorney allows the appointed person to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do so. This may include consenting to medical treatments, choosing doctors or caregivers, and deciding on life-sustaining treatments.
Whilst for some, the idea of a decision maker and estate handler might actually sound quite nice, a POA doesn’t quite work like that. It’s not a worker you can hire to take care of the sensible stuff whilst you go off and relax. Similarly, it’s not giving up control whilst you still want it.
The powers of a POA come into place when you are no longer able to make decisions. Similarly, their power will cease after you die, and be transferred onto your executor of estate.
Depending on the scope and specifics of their appointment, your POA will only be there for the duration and specific tasks you’ve appointed them for.
Again, whilst you still have capacity- the real powers in your hands! Like all other aspects of your Will, you're free (and encouraged) to pop back in and make regular updates.
This includes modifying, revoking or updating a power of attorney- so long as you still have full mental capacity.
Say you come down in a nasty accident, or your’e health declines to the point of no return. Hopefully, you’ll avoid both, but if the worst occurs it’s important to know your life’s work is in good hands.
Yes, it can be scary to think about death. And for some, it can be even scarier thinking about a life where you can no longer make decisions. With a Power of Attorney in place, you have the opportunity to maintain some control no matter what happens. But why else might you consider appointing for this legal role?
1. Peace of Mind: Amid the uncertainty of life, it can be comforting to know someone you trust will take care of your decisions if you cannot.
2. Continuity: Ensure your affairs are managed consistently, even if you are temporarily or permanently incapacitated. From preventing delays in important medical decisions, to protecting your assets to wake up to- a power of attorney ensures you and your estate are looked after in your absence.
3. Decision-making on your terms: POA’s leave the power in your hands; with flexibility to customise this authority to specific needs and preferences. You can outline the scope, set limitations, and define the circumstances under which it becomes effective. Even after all that, you can go in and make changes at any point in time.
Safewill makes it easier than ever to not only write your Will, but appoint your POA. We’ll offer expert legal advice and support from our affiliate law firm, as well as work on a timescale which works for you to get it done. That's all the support, all the peace of mind, and none of the crazy legal fees.