Why a General Power of Attorney could be a short term solution during Covid -19.
- AuthorTanya Tremelling
Whilst no one likes to think about these situations, there may come a time when you lack the mental capacity to make decisions for yourself. This could come about as a result of an accident or a medical condition for example dementia.
Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) are documents where the person making the LPA (known as the donor) gives authority to people (known as attorneys) to make decisions on their behalf when they are unable to make those decisions themselves.
There are two types of LPAs that can be made, Property and Financial Affairs and Personal Health and Welfare Decisions. Before attorneys can rely on the documents to make decisions on the donor's behalf, LPAs must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. The registration process takes 10-12 weeks during which time no decisions can be made. There is also a fee payable to register an LPA of £82.00 unless the donor can prove receipt of certain means-tested welfare benefits or has an individual income of less than £12,000 a year.
How could a General Power of Attorney help during this crisis?
A General Power of Attorney (GPA) otherwise known as an Ordinary Power of Attorney is a way of authorising someone to act on your behalf and in your name. There is no set form needed to make one other than a prescribed form of words. A GPA doesn't need to be registered and is effective as soon as it has been signed. It is therefore the simplest Power of Attorney to make and requires only one witness. A GPA can only be used with regard to property and financial affairs, and cannot be used to make personal health and welfare decisions.
A GPA can be extremely useful in circumstances where it becomes temporarily difficult for you to manage your affairs, for example, because you are unwell, recovering from an injury or travelling abroad.
The scope of a GPA can be very wide-ranging enabling the attorney to do anything in relation to your property and finances.
You should therefore, choose an attorney wisely! It is advisable for you to limit the scope of the GPA and the attorney's powers, for example, to only deal with the purchase of a property or to operate a specified bank account. A GPA can also be limited to a specified time period. These are particularly important to consider as there are fewer safeguards in place with a GPA.
A GPA is usually a short -term measure and can be ended by the donor revoking it, by destroying the document although it would be sensible to have evidence of the GPA being ended, or by way of a written document known as a deed of revocation. A GPA is also ended if the donor dies or if the donor or attorney lose mental capacity. If there is any suggestion that the donor is losing capacity then an LPA should be made instead. Only an LPA can be relied on by an attorney to make decisions if the donor has lost mental capacity.
In the midst of the current coronavirus pandemic, a GPA may offer protection and reassurance to clients who can put steps in place to safeguard their property and finances should they become unwell physically or if they need to self-isolate due to age or vulnerability. It can be put into place quickly and easily with only a single witness required.
It also does not need to be registered, which means it can be used immediately. It will be important to review this and prepare an LPA once things have returned to normal.
If you should require any further information about LPAs or GPAs then please contact our lifetime planning team who can discuss the options with you and consider is the best option for you in your circumstance.
Tanya is a Legal Advisor in our Lifetime Planning Team, dealing predominantly with the preparation of Wills and Powers of Attorney. She is proud of her role in helping clients with the process of "taking stock" and planning ahead for life's uncertainties, helping others with their peace of mind.
For more information you can contact Tanya on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01792 525411