Making decisions and managing affairs for someone else

Power of Attorney (PoA) helps you plan for the future in case you should lose mental capacity.

Many people want to plan ahead for their finances or care, or that of their loved ones. For example, people living with dementia and their families can find it helpful to discuss these subjects and plans for the future, early in the dementia journey. 

Power of Attorney is a legal document for when a person (the ‘Donor’) gives another person or persons (the ‘Attorney’) the power to act on their behalf with regard to their property and financial affairs and/or health and welfare.

You do not need legal experience to act as someone’s attorney, but you do need to follow the guidance in the Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice.

Types of Power of Attorney

There are two types of Power of Attorney:

  • property and financial affairs
  • health and welfare

Just because you give a trusted person power of attorney over your health, it does not mean they will automatically gain control over your financial affairs. Some people choose to set up both types of PoA at the same time.

Power of Attorney can also be either:

Lasting - long-term, for example when someone loses mental capacity due to an illness such as dementia, or;

Ordinary – temporary and for a limited amount of time, for example when someone is abroad for a long time, or has a physical illness.

Setting up and registering a Power of Attorney

Anyone over 18 can set up a power of attorney; you do not need to be unwell. You must however have the mental capacity to make your own decisions when setting up a power of attorney, which is why it is a good idea to think about it early.

You can enact (put into effect) a property and financial affairs lasting power of attorney at any time once it has been registered. A health and welfare lasting power only comes in to effect after it has been registered, and the person to whom it relates to no longer has the mental capacity to make relevant decision for themselves.

There is no cost to draw up a lasting power of attorney, unless you want a solicitor’s help. You do however have to register the power of attorney before you can use it, for which there is a charge.

Further information about power of attorneys

The following websites have information about setting up Power of Attorney:

  • information on making, registering or ending a lasting power of attorney including necessary forms and online application service -  it also includes information about making decisions as an attorney and where to get support when making difficult decisions
  • Age UK’s webpage includes a video explaining power of attorney
  • The NHS website has information on giving someone power of attorney
  • The Money Advice Service has an advice and information including the cost to register a power of attorney
  • The Citizen’s Advice website has information on the types of power of attorney including the differences between ‘Ordinary’ and ‘Lasting’ power of attorney
  • The Alzheimer’s Society website has practical advice and guidance about setting up a lasting power of attorney.