What Is a Power of Attorney in the UK?

Dec 11, 2020   ·   6 minute read
woman helping senior with paperwork

A power of attorney authorises nominated members of your family or trusted friends to act on your behalf if you are not capable of making your own decisions because you lack capacity to do so. Many people don’t think that they need a power of attorney but accidents or sudden ill-health can happen to us all so it is sensible to put a power of attorney in place so it is there if you need it.

What Is a Health and Welfare Power of Attorney?

There are two types of power of attorney and you can chose to have both or just one type, depending on your preferences. The health and welfare power of attorney gives authority to your nominated family or trusted friends (who are referred to as attorneys) to make decisions about your care needs and medical treatment. 


Your attorneys are only able to act on the power of attorney if you are not able to express a view on your medical treatment or care needs because you lack capacity. Lacking capacity is something that is assessed by doctors and could occur, for example, if you are in a coma after an accident or have had a severe stroke or are on a ventilator.


What is a property and financial affairs power of attorney? 

A property and financial affairs power of attorney authorises your nominated family, friends or professional advisors (who you appointed as your attorneys in the power of attorney document) to manage your property and financial affairs. For example, if you lack capacity to manage your own financial affairs it could be very helpful to have a trusted person ensure that all your household bills or care home fees are paid from your bank account or to arrange the sale of your family home if you need to downsize to a sheltered apartment or are moving to live with a family member.


A property and financial affairs power of attorney can either be set up so that it can only be used if you lose capacity or at any time, depending on your preferences. For example, if you have capacity to make your own decisions but spend a lot of time overseas it can be helpful to have an active property and financial power of attorney so your attorneys can sign paperwork on your behalf.


Who should you appoint as an attorney in a power of attorney?

Your choice of attorney may depend on the type of power of attorney you are executing. If the power of attorney is a health and welfare power of attorney you may want to choose close family members or friends who know you well and would know what medical choices you would be likely to make if you had the capacity to make your own health and welfare decisions.


If you are planning to execute both powers of attorney then you can choose different attorneys for each document as you may think that different friends or family members would be better suited to manage your property and financial affairs. 


If you decide, at a later date, that you want to change an attorney then you can do so provided that you have the capacity to change the document. That’s why it is important to review your powers of attorney when you are reviewing your Will or your insurance provision to make sure changes don’t need to be made.


How long does a power of attorney last for?

A power of attorney is indefinite in length and will last until you cancel it. You can cancel a power of attorney at any stage provided that you have legal capacity to do so. That means that if you execute a power of attorney whilst in your twenties nominating your husband, wife or siblings to be your attorneys then the power of attorney document may never need changing. Obviously if you separate or divorce or one of your attorneys loses capacity or passes away then you can change the power of attorney at that stage.

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When is a power of attorney used?

A power of attorney has to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian but a health power of attorney won’t be used unless you lack the capacity to make your own decisions. Any loss of capacity to make your own decisions could be temporary or permanent, depending on the nature of your condition. A property and financial affairs power of attorney could be set up so it is only used if you lose capacity or so that the power of attorney can be used by your attorneys, depending on your preferences.


Is a power of attorney necessary? 

If you lack capacity then a power of attorney makes it a lot easier for your friends and family to help and support you. Sadly, loss of capacity can happen quickly (because of an accident) or slowly (without our realising that we are losing our capacity) and that’s why it is sensible to sign a power of attorney so that you have the power of attorney in place when or if you need it.


If you wait and lose capacity then you can’t sign a power of attorney at that stage. In addition your relatives can’t sign a power of attorney for you. If you become incapacitated without a power of attorney then your family or friends can make an application to the Court of Protection for a deputy to be appointed to look after your affairs. 


The drawback of not executing a power of attorney is that a court application for the appointment of a deputy costs more in legal fees than signing a power of attorney. In addition if you lose capacity your attorneys can immediately help you through the authority given to them in the power of attorney document. If family or friends have to make an application to court for a deputy to be appointed there is likely to be a delay between the Court of Protection application and the appointment of the deputy. 


How much does a power of attorney cost?  

 At Evolve Family Law we believe it is important to be upfront and transparent about legal fees so we publish a price guide on our website under “Our Prices”. That way you have the confidence of knowing the price of a power of attorney document before calling our friendly power of attorney solicitors.


Although Evolve Family Law charge a fixed fee for your power of attorney you will get bespoke legal advice from a specialist private client and power of attorney solicitor that looks at your personal situation for a fee that is simple and understandable. 

We are Manchester and Cheshire Private Client and Power of Attorney Solicitors

For specialist private client advice on your power of attorney or making or changing your Will or estate planning call Chris Strogen at Evolve Family Law or complete our online enquiry form. Evolve Family Law has offices in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire and Whitefield, Manchester but we also offer remote meetings by appointment by video call or telephone.