What is power of attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal way to have one person act on behalf of another. One person can sign this formal document that gives another person the authority to act in his name, and on his behalf.

The person who is to act for you is called the attorney »  This may be any responsible relative, friend, or professional person.

You may want to appoint someone else to look after your affairs because you are going abroad.

An enduring power of attorney »  should be created to protect your financial affairs in case you become unable to manage your finances.

There is no set form of words for a power of attorney. A power of attorney may give someone the power to carry out a specific task. Examples of specific tasks are signing cheques or selling a flat. Or, the attorney may be given wide and general powers of managing all of a person’s money and property.

Powers of attorney do not stop the person who gives the power from continuing to act on his or her own behalf. It merely gives another person the ability to carry out the responsiblities, as well. Wherever possible, the person who gave the power should still be consulted by the attorney before doing anything on his or her behalf.

In Scotland, when the Power of Attorney is signed, the solicitor will normally arrange for it to be registered in the Public Register. The register is called the Books of Council and Session. This makes sure that the power of attorney will not get lost. It also enables the attorney to get legally valid copies of the power of attorney when they need them.

It is essential to ensure that the power of attorney states your wishes exactly.

Be careful in your choice. There is no official supervision of attorneys.

Solicitors act for the person who is giving others power to act on their behalf. Solicitors work to protect the best interests of the person who is giving the powers to others. The wants, needs, and best interests of family members and friends are not considered when giving any form of power of attorney.

A power of attorney is only valid if the person signing it is fully capable to grant it. Your solicitor has a professional duty to be sure about this.

So, your solicitor may want to check your fitness »  to understand the document, for example by asking to speak to your doctor. This is to protect you, and to ensure that no one can say that the power of attorney is invalid.

In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, a power of attorney does not avoid possible future difficulties in managing your finances or property when you lose capacity.

In England and Wales, only in exceptional circumstances will an ordinary power of attorney be lawful when the donor becomes mentally incapable.

In Scotland, a continuing power of attorney »  may can protect your assets when you lose the capability to manage your finances.

An attorney with either general powers or enduring powers »  should not make decisions about anything other than financial matters.

Attorneys, receivers, and appointees should not control the person’s behaviour or choice.

Notify the authorities if you are concerned about an attorney, guardian, or receiver »  abusing their powers or restricting contact of family and friends.