Changes To The Enduring Power Of Attorney Act
Changes to the Enduring Power of Attorney Act should safeguard your interests – but does it need to concern you?
New regulations covering lasting power of attorney are due to come into force in April 2007. John Riddett a solicitor from Blocks in Ipswich looks at what these changes will mean…
What is enduring power of attorney?
In the early 80s the Government realised that as the population was living longer there were increasing numbers of cases where elderly people were unable to manage their financial affairs because of illnesses like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
So in 1985 a new law was passed called the Enduring Power of Attorney Act, which enabled an individual to appoint someone, perhaps a son or daughter, to make financial decisions for them in case of incapacity or mental illness.
How does it work?
When you sign the document it works in one of two ways. You might give someone temporary power over your finances, for instance, if you went abroad on a long holiday.
It could be used by an elderly person who through disability was unable to get out to the bank for instance or it could be used when an elderly person became unwell and a relative needed to access their bank to pay for care needs,ete.
Signing the document does not mean that it needs to be used at that time.
When the document is drawn up it’s vital that the person signing power of attorney has the capacity to understand what they are doing. If someone becomes unwell it’s too late to enter into this sort of arrangement.
What’s going to change?
For some time health professionals have been concerned they are being asked to carry out medical treatment on elderly people and are not sure that the individuals understand what is actually involved.
Doctors need consent for instance to carry out operations but what happens if the individual is unable to give consent?
So the government is proposing that, as from April 2007, there is a new lasting power of attorney that , covers money, property and health.
What about living wills?
This is where people have indicated writing that they do/don’t want to have medical treatment if they can’t give consent. However they are not legally binding and some doctors won’t follow them.
How will it work?
The new law will allow you to appoint one or more persons to deal with your finances, general welfare and medical issues like consent to treatment.
Do I need to sign a power of attorney document now or should I wait?
Our advice is that you should do it now and add the health section later. Currently you sign the document but it does not come into effect until it is registered – which costs £ 100.
In the last 20 years only 10 per cent of power of attorney documents which have been drawn up have been registered.
This is because many people have put the arrangements in place just in case but have not needed to use them.
After April though all power of attorney documents have to be registered and paid for when they are drawn up and as yet there’s no indication what the fee may be.
There’s also some concern that there may be so many registrations taking place that there won’t be enough staff with adequate training to deal with the paperwork.
Who should I appoint as power of attorney?
It needs to be someone you trust to look after your best interests. You might choose a partner or member of your family but you need to consider their age.
You may also choose more than one attorney to act together or maybe separately, one who looks after your finances and another who deals with health.
Do I need to start thinking about drawing up a power of attorney document?
If you are aged over 65 the answer is certainly yes.
Printed with kind permission of Let’s Talk! September 2006.