Most people assume that if something were to happen and they lost the ability to make important decisions for themselves, that their family or close friends would be able to step in and make those decisions on their behalf. However the law does not work in that way.
An Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) is a legal document, where you appoint someone you trust to act on your behalf if you lose your mental capacity and are unable to make decisions for yourself. It is important to have an EPA as there can be many problems if you do not have one when the need arises. If you don't have an EPA in place, then your family would need to apply to the court to have someone appointed as your welfare guardian to make decisions for you, which can be a very costly process. The judge appointing the welfare guardian for you will not necessarily know who you would choose to rely on and trust to look after your welfare and best interests. They may appoint someone to the role who you would not have chosen. This is why we recommend that you set up EPAs while you are able to, so you know who will be looking after you and making decisions on your behalf, if and when the need arises.
There are two types of EPAs:
- Property EPA: This EPA is in relation to your financial and property affairs. It is possible to appoint more than one person to act on your behalf in relation to your property matters.
- Personal Care and Welfare EPA: This EPA is in relation to your health and wellbeing matters such as decisions about your medical treatment, hospitalisation and other personal care matters.
Your attorney must act in your best interests when making any decisions on your behalf. They must always promote and protect your welfare and best interests and cannot use your money for the benefit of themselves or any other person (unless you have specified that they can do so in the EPA). It is also possible to require your attorneys to consult with certain people or to provide certain people with information about the decisions that they are making. This can be useful if you have a number of family members who you wish to keep involved and updated about your affairs.
Once you have set up your EPAs they will continue until you revoke them, or until your death. The EPAs can be cancelled or revoked at any time while you still have capacity to make that decision. EPAs are different to ordinary powers of attorney, as those documents cease to have effect if the person who gave the power of attorney loses their mental capacity.
If you lose your mental capacity, then without having EPAs in place no one else can legally make decisions on your behalf without going to court, which can cause a great deal of unnecessary stress and expense to your family.
If you would like more information about EPAs or if you would like to set up new EPAs for yourself, please get in touch with us today and we will be more than happy to assist.