What is a Power of Attorney?

Power of attorney gives an individual the legal authority to act on your behalf. If you can no longer make decisions for yourself due to injury or illness, it’s important to transfer power of attorney to someone you trust. The person who nominates someone to be their power of attorney is known as the principle, while the nominee is known as the agent.

Choosing to nominate power of attorney can be a daunting decision, but QLD Estate Lawyers can help you navigate this process.

What does power of attorney mean?

Power of attorney is a legal document that identifies the person selected to manage your assets in the event you lose the capacity to do so yourself. Regardless of who you nominate, you should be confident the person you’ve chosen will act in your best interests. Agents have the right to make decisions regarding your health, finances and assets, which is why it’s so important to nominate someone you trust implicitly.

Assigning power of attorney gives a person the right to control almost every aspect of your life, including:

  • Where you live and whether any properties you own should be sold
  • What medical treatments you receive
  • How and when your bills are paid
  • Who you have contact with

In some cases, it’s possible to decide when the person you’ve nominated as power of attorney can start making decisions on your behalf. For example, you may want to stipulate that the agent can only take control of matters regarding your health if and when you become incapable of making decisions yourself.

Do I need power of attorney?

Elderly people have the greatest need for power of attorney. The possibility of experiencing serious health problems inevitably increases with age, and being prepared for the worst can make things less stressful for you and your family. Even if you’re still perfectly capable of managing your affairs, nominating a power of attorney will ensure your assets are protected in case you suddenly fall ill.

Regardless of age, anyone facing health problems should consider power of attorney. You might also want to think about choosing a power of attorney if you travel a lot, in the unlikely event something happens to you while you’re on the other side of the world.

Determining whether you need power of attorney is a very personal choice, and you should weigh up your options carefully before starting the nomination process.

Who can be power of attorney?

You can choose almost anyone to be your power of attorney, including a relative, spouse, friend or a professional (such as your lawyer). Power of attorneys must be over the age of 18, and cannot be employed as your paid carer.

The most important consideration in selecting power of attorney is trust. As long as you’re sure the person you’ve nominated will act in your best interests, you can be confident you’ve made the right choice.

Types of Powers of Attorney

There are several different types of powers of attorney. The type you require will depend on your unique circumstances. Before nominating a power of attorney, it’s important to understand how each type works.

  • General power of attorney – A general power of attorney can make financial and legal decisions for you, but only for a specified timeframe. For example, you might appoint a general power of attorney before an overseas trip
  • Enduring power of attorney – An enduring power of attorney can manage your affairs for you while you’re alive but only if you don’t have the capacity to make important decisions. For example, if you sustain a brain injury

If you’re not sure what type of power of attorney would be suited to your circumstances, QLD Estate lawyers can provide you with legal advice.

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Last updated: 29 April 2019