Signing a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) document authorises someone to deal with matters on your behalf, should you become unable to do so yourself.
There are two types of LPAs, one covering property and financial affairs and one covering health and welfare.
It is possible to ask your attorney to deal with your property and financial matters while you are still capable, for example if you have limited mobility and find it difficult to get to your bank. Your health and welfare matters can only be dealt with by your attorney once you can no longer make decisions for yourself.
You can choose to sign only one type of LPA if you wish.
Who should you appoint?
You should choose someone whom you trust implicitly, as they will potentially have a great deal of say over your life and financial affairs.
Your attorney needs to be aged 18 or over and in respect of a financial and property LPA you cannot appoint anyone who has been declared bankrupt or who is subject to a debt relief order.
If you do not feel that you have a family member or close friend who can act on your behalf, it is possible to appoint a professional such as a solicitor, who will charge a fee to deal with your affairs and who will be under a duty to act in your best interests.
Once your LPA is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), your attorney will be supervised by them. This could include a visit to you or contact to ensure your deputy is acting effectively. After the first year it is likely that the supervision will be fairly minimal.
What your attorney needs to know
You should ensure that your attorney is happy to be appointed, and that they know what responsibilities this will entail. For example, they will be required to submit an annual report to the OPG explaining the reasoning behind the decisions they have made on your behalf and why they believe the decisions were in your best interests, as well as submitting financial details such as bank statements.
Give your attorney as much information up front as you can, letting them know what you will expect them to do for you and the scope of what they will be dealing with.
Let them think it through carefully and without pressure so that they can make the right decision. If they do choose to act, then discuss your wishes with them so that when the time comes they will know how you would like them to proceed.
It is a good idea to have a second choice attorney in place, in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to act when you finally need them to.