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What is Power of Attorney?

By Ian Robinson

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What is Power of Attorney?

Understand what Power of Attorney is, plus the differences between a property and financial affairs Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) and a health and welfare LPA.

Power of Attorney is a legal document where one person (the donor) gives others (their attorneys) the right to act on their behalf. This can be a temporary convenience (Ordinary Power of Attorney) but, for longer-term arrangements, most people use an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) or Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).

Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA)

EPAs set up before October 2007 can still be used to control the property and financial affairs of the donor. However, the system changed in 2007 and no new EPAs have been created since then.    

If the donor still has mental capacity (to understand information, weigh it up and communicate their decision) an existing EPA can be used without being registered with the Office of the Public Guardian.

If the donor lacks capacity, for example, as the result of dementia or a stroke, the EPA can no longer be used until it has been registered. Although no new EPAs can be created, those already completed remain valid and can still be registered.

Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)

Lasting Power of Attorney is the current form of Power of Attorney. There are two types:

Property and financial affairs LPA

This gives your attorney the power to make decisions about your money and property, including managing bank or building society accounts, paying bills, collecting a pension or benefits and, if necessary, selling your home. Once registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, it can be used immediately, or held in readiness until required.

Health and welfare LPA

This gives your attorney the power to make decisions about your daily routine (washing, dressing, eating), medical care, moving into a care home and life-sustaining medical treatment. It can only be used if you are unable to make your own decisions.

There are three property and financial LPAs for every one personal welfare LPA, but we'd recommend setting both up at the same time, as they can only be created while you still have full capacity. Many people do this at the same time as reviewing or revising their will, sometimes using the same solicitor to do both.

Find out more: Setting up a Power of Attorney

Power of Attorney in Scotland

In Scotland, Ordinary Powers of Attorney are known as General Powers of Attorney (GPA) and do not need to be registered before use. Where the donor lacks capacity, a Continuing Power of Attorney (CPA) is required to control their financial affairs. This must be registered with the Scottish OPG.

For decisions about a donor’s health and welfare, a Welfare Power of Attorney (WPA) is required. This also needs to be registered and can only be used if the donor lacks capacity.

Power of Attorney in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, EPAs are still used. They can be ordinary Power of Attorneys if the donor retains capacity. If the donor lacks capacity, only an Enduring Power of Attorney that has been registered with the Office of Care and Protection may be used.    

  • Last updated: June 2016
  • Updated by: Ian Robinson

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