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What is a POA?

You may be familiar with the term 'power of attorney', but you probably associate it with the elderly and vulnerable in society.

However, any of us could, at any time and at any age, find ourselves in a situation where we are unable to make financial decisions or health and welfare decisions ourselves.

When such a situation arises, a power of attorney can be invaluable. There are two types of power of attorney: a General power of attorney (POA) and a Lasting power of attorney (LPA)

A general POA is the most straightforward power of attorney that you can make.

People normally only use this document for 'one-off events' and for a short period of time.  For example, you may be in the middle of an important transaction but at the same time about to leave the country on holiday or on business. A general POA will allow you to appoint somebody to sign documents on your behalf in your absence so that the transaction is not held up.

Once you are back from your travels, you should revoke the power of attorney.

General powers of attorney should not be used where you intend

  • the arrangement with your attorney to be a long-standing one, or

  • arrangement to continue even if you were to lose your mental faculties

In these circumstances, you should consider making an LPA.

Appointing your attorneys

You need to decide who you are going to appoint as your attorney or attorneys. It goes without saying that you should trust these people implicitly as they are likely to be making important decisions on your behalf. 

Your attorneys: 

  • must be over the age of 18

  • must be of sound mind

  • cannot be (undischarged or interim) bankrupts

Deciding how your attorneys will make decisions

If you decide to have more than one attorney, you will need to decide whether your attorneys are given authority to act jointly and severally, or jointly.

Acting jointly: means that all your attorneys must agree to every decision made on your behalf.

Acting jointly and severally: means that any one of the attorneys can make decisions independently of the others.

Revoking a power of attorney

A general POA is typically revoked (ie cancelled) if:

  • a donor is no longer happy with the attorney and wishes to cancel their appointment, or

  • the power of attorney was created for a specific purpose and is no longer needed

A Revocation of power of attorney should be used to revoke a POA.

For more information, read Revoking a power of attorney and lasting power of attorney.

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