A United Kingdom Power of Attorney letter is a legal document giving someone else the power to act on your behalf when it comes to property, financial or health issues. There are several types of Power of Attorney documents in the U.K., ranging from a temporary transfer of power to a Lasting Power of Attorney. The latter can be useful if you fear you may lose mental capacity as you get older. It protects you by allowing you to nominate a close friend, relative or someone you trust to operate in your best interests.
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Choose which type of Power of Attorney you need. A Lasting Power of Attorney lasts until death unless you revoke it and it can be put in place if the donor (the person writing the Power of Attorney letter) becomes ill or mentally incapacitated. An Ordinary Power of Attorney can be used if the donor will be away from home for a period of time, such as on holiday or in a hospital.
Choose the person you want to act on your behalf. That person is known as your attorney. If creating an Ordinary Power of Attorney, you can nominate up to four people to take care of your affairs. You can nominate five people for a Lasting Power of Attorney. All must be at least 18 years old and people you trust. People who have been bankrupt cannot act as attorneys.
Seek legal advice if creating an Ordinary Power of Attorney, because there are no standard forms for this document. An Ordinary Power of Attorney letter can be general or limited to specific areas, such as dealing with bank accounts. It does not need to be registered and usually ends at a specific time.
Choose a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) if you want to grant longer lasting power or fear mental incapacity. While an Ordinary Power of Attorney will automatically end if the donor becomes mentally incapacitated, a Lasting Power of Attorney will not. There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney: a Property and Financial Affairs LPA and a Health and Welfare LPA. A Property and Financial Affairs LPA allows someone to decide how you spend your money, and this LPA is used when you lack the mental capacity to decide this for yourself. It also can be used when you still have mental capacity but are limited physically. A Health and Welfare LPA allows your attorney to decide where you live, what health treatment you receive and how you are cared for. It becomes activated only when you lack mental capacity.
Download standard forms for a Property and Financial Affairs LPA and a Health and Welfare LPA from the Office of the Public Guardian's website (see References below). Complete the forms carefully and ensure they are signed by all relevant parties. This includes yourself or the donor, the person to whom you are appointing power of attorney and an independent third party known as the certificate provider. This third party testifies to your current mental capacity.
Register the Lasting Power of Attorney. The LPA must be registered with the U.K. Office of the Public Guardian before it can be used or before any legal powers are transferred. It costs £120 ($176) per form, and both forms must be registered separately. There are price reductions for certain economic groups. See the website for details. The LPA document will be stamped on each page to show it has been registered. Do not wait to register the form until it is needed, because there may be a long waiting period for approval. Any mistakes will also render the LPA null and void.
Scotland: Choose from three Power of Attorney options in Scotland. A General Power of Attorney is usually created for a specific time period in which the granter, as the donor is known in Scotland, will be unavailable. A Continuing Power of Attorney allows the granter to nominate someone to look after his/her property and financial affairs. It can be used immediately after it has been registered with the Scottish Office of the Public Guardian, both before and after any mental incapacity. A Welfare Power of Attorney allows nominated attorneys to make decisions about the health and welfare of the granter and can be used only after registration with the Scottish Office of the Public Guardian and after the granter has lost mental capacity.
Northern Ireland: Choose from two Power of Attorney options in Northern Ireland: a General Power of Attorney for a limited time span or a longer lasting Enduring Power of Attorney. Seek legal advice regarding an Enduring Power of Attorney, because you may want to limit the range of power your attorney has. If your attorney or attorneys believe you are becoming mentally incapable, they must apply to the High Court (Office of Care and Protection) to register this Enduring Power of Attorney. See the Office of Care and Protection's website for further advice.
Tips and warnings
- You can cancel a Lasting or Ordinary Power of Attorney at any time provided you are mentally capable. You need a solicitor to draft a Deed of Revocation and send notice to the existing attorney. The attorney's authority does not end until he receives notice of the revocation. A Lasting Power of Attorney is automatically cancelled if your attorney becomes bankrupt (a provision that applies only to the Property or Financial Affairs LPA) or dies or if your attorney is your spouse and you get divorced, assuming there are no other nominated attorneys to step in.
- The decision to send you to a nursing home cannot be made by someone holding a Health and Welfare LPA alone. He must also hold the Property and Financial Affairs LPA to deal with payment or to work closely with someone who does.
- Lasting Power of Attorney replaced Enduring Power of Attorney in 2007. You can no longer create an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) in England, Wales and Scotland (though you can in Northern Ireland), but you can continue to register existing EPAs made before that time.
- Choose more than one attorney for a Lasting Power of Attorney to prevent potential abuse. Choose people you trust to act in your best interests and people who handle their own financial affairs well. You can insist your attorneys act jointly--making all decisions together--if you want.
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