This article looks at what you need to know if you agree to be an attorney for someone. We hope you find the information useful.
What’s a Lasting Power of Attorney?
As you may know, it’s wise to set up a Lasting Power of Attorney if a time comes when you’re unable to make decisions about your health and welfare or your property and finance.
The health and welfare power only comes into effect if you lose the mental capacity to make decisions for yourself. In that situation, it’s reassuring to have nominated a person or people you trust to look after you.
With regard to property and finance, as well as handing over your affairs to someone you trust if you lose capacity, you might want an attorney to act for you when you’re overseas. Perhaps you’re in the middle of selling your house and have to go abroad for work, for example. In that case, it could be useful to have someone in the UK who can progress things and sign documents on your behalf.
But what if someone has appointed you to be their attorney, you’ve agreed, the forms have all been all signed and registered… and then the power comes into effect? This article explains more.
Things you need to know in advance
An attorney must be:
- A relative
- A friend
- Husband, wife or partner
- A professional, such as a solicitor (we often act as attorneys for our clients)
The person who appoints you to be their attorney is called the donor. In order for you to carry out their wishes, it’s a good idea to ask about their plans for their money or how they want to be cared for if they become seriously ill.
To be valid, the lasting Power of Attorney must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. This can take up to 20 weeks.
You should act in the donor’s best interests, following their instructions and preferences, and respecting their human and civil rights. You should also help them make their own decisions if they can.
Being an attorney is an important role, and the Office of the Public Guardian and Court of Protection can check your decisions. You should therefore keep records of all the important decisions you make, and when. Include details of who you asked for advice, and of any disagreements.
Are you an attorney for health and welfare?
If you are an attorney for health and welfare, you can make decisions about:
- the donor’s daily routine e.g. washing, dressing, eating
- medical care
- moving into a care home
- life-sustaining treatment
- signing medical consent forms (unless they’ve made a living will or been sectioned)
With permission from whoever is in charge of the donor’s finances, you can spend their money on:
- clothes and hairdressing
- decorating their home or their room in the care home
- paying for extra support so the donor can go out for visits, a day trip or a holiday
Before you make decisions, you should inform the donor’s friends and family, their doctor and other healthcare staff including care workers, social workers and other social care staff.
You might have to liaise with the Court of Protection if there’s a living will and LPA which give differing instructions, or if medical staff or the donor’s friends and family disagree about the treatment that should be given.
Are you an attorney for property and finance?
If you are an attorney for property and finance, you can:
- manage the donor’s cash and bank or building society accounts
- pay their bills, including tax
- collect their benefits and/or pension
- sell the donor’s home (you’ll need legal advice if you sell it below market rate, or buy it yourself, or give it away)
- sell their investments, if any
- use their money to buy food for them
- use their money to buy gifts for their friends and family, or to donate to their preferred charities (if that’s what they would usually do and they can afford it)
You should discuss the donor’s living arrangements, medical care or daily routine with their health and welfare attorney/s, (if any).
Unless the Court of Protection agrees, you can’t use the donor’s money to pay school or university fees, nor make interest-free loans, nor let someone live in their property unless they pay rent at or over market rate.
You should keep records of the donor’s assets, income and how you spend their money.
Are you a sole attorney?
Often, more than one attorney is appointed. In this case, you need to know if decisions are to be made jointly (when all attorneys must agree), or jointly and severally (which means you can make decisions on your own or with the other attorney/s).
This is just a brief overview of the main issues. For further advice, please get in touch. We’ll be happy to help.