18-09-2018

Get your Power of Attorney set up

We don’t like to think of these things but if you had an accident and were in a coma, how would you renew your house insurance or pay your child’s school fees? You may think that things will run as normal, but the fact of the matter is that, in the absence of any other instruction, your bank is legally required to freeze your bank account once it becomes aware that you are mentally incapable of making decisions for yourself - and this also applies to a joint account and so, for example, the other named person would also not be able to access the account or use any funds in it. This is just one of the myriad of financial problems that would arise if you became mentally incapable and had not put any arrangements in place.

You may assume that your partner or your spouse would have automatic authority on your behalf. This is not the case.

The arrangement to put in place is called a Lasting Power of Attorney which is a legal document that specifies the person (or people) that you trust to take decisions on your behalf in the event that you are incapable of doing so.   The Power of Attorney document is relatively simple to complete and only costs £82 to register with the Office of the Public Guardian (the government department that oversees these things). All you really need to do is identify the person (or people) that you trust for this role and, of course, get their agreement, complete, sign and send in the form. Then, in the event of your incapacity, a relatively smooth transition can be made to your trusted person handling your finances until you are again in a position to make your own decisions.  

If you lose the capacity to make your own decisions and you don’t have a valid power of attorney, then someone will need to apply to the Court of Protection and get a Deputy appointed . A Deputy acts in a very similar way to the trusted person under a Power of Attorney. The main differences are that they report regularly to the Court of Protection, getting a deputy appointed can take time (several months during which your accounts remain frozen) and is a costly affair. And, of course, the Court of Protection chooses and appoints the deputy - not you.

[Partner’s Name], a partner in local law firm [firm’s name] said, “Putting a Power of Attorney in place may be a minor annoyance now and hopefully you will never need it. But it is better to have and forget than to need and not have!”.