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This month, with Dementia Action week in mind, Jane Collins-Whyte, a specialist in Adults with Incapacity explains why it is a good idea for every adult to have a Power of Attorney.

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that allows the granter to delegate financial and/or welfare decisions to someone of their choosing. Many people are unaware that this document is an important element of sensible planning for ANY adult who owns assets or owes debts, and not just for older adults or those who are worried about declining cognitive health.

Sadly, accidents can happen at any age and if you are temporarily or permanently incapacitated, in the absence of a POA, no other person can legally make decisions on your behalf. This is often a surprise to many people who think that their spouse or long-term partner would have automatic authority to speak to their bank or mobile phone company, for example, or perhaps consent to medical treatment; however, this is not the case. In the absence of a POA, family members do not even have the right to cancel your broadband or magazine subscription, let alone consent to a surgical procedure.

The powers granted in a POA can be as wide or as narrow as you wish, but the important thing is that you are in control of who you appoint and what they are able to do. Without a POA, someone would need to apply to the Court for a Guardianship Order and the person appointed might not be the person you would have chosen. Not only that, but the process can take many months, causing unnecessary stress for everyone involved. The appointed guardian also has an obligation to prepare annual accounts thereby adding additional cost to your estate.

Whilst the Welfare powers in a POA can only come into force if the granter loses capacity, the ‘continuing’ or financial powers can be used straightaway, if you wish them to. This is especially useful for those people who are housebound or shielding, or for people who travel a lot. In this way a POA can offer peace of mind to many people, young and old, who would benefit from delegating authority to someone they can trust whilst they are not able, or disinclined, to act themselves.

If you would like some more information or advice on this topic, please contact Jane by email at or by telephone 0141 483 4457.

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