When Powers of Attorney are in the spotlight, most people will think of Lasting Powers of Attorney and are not aware that there are actually many other types of Power of Attorney available.
Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) were brought about in October 2007 by the Mental Capacity Act 2005, and, before that, we had Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPAs). Both are still valid documents, although EPAs cannot be made any more. Both types enable a person (the “donor”) to choose somebody else (the “attorney”) to manage all or any of their financial affairs for them, in the event that they lose mental capacity in the future.
Restrictions can be placed on the power in order to limit what legal authorities the attorney(s) have, but an unrestricted power is very wide. LPAs are also quite administratively-heavy to produce., The main information required includes:
- Witnesses for both the donor and the attorneys
- A Certificate Provider for the donor
- A 6-8 week registration period with the Office of the Public Guardian
- Registration fees (£82 per document)
Alternative Powers of Attorney
A General Power of Attorney allows a chosen attorney to have all of the same powers as an attorney appointed in a LPA, but with a fraction of the costs and administration work. It does not need to be registered, therefore the only expense would be legal advice, which is minimal due to the simplicity of these powers.
As an alternative to General Powers, Specific Powers can be drafted. These allow for specific powers to be granted to your appointed attorney(s), for example dealing with the sale of property whilst you are abroad, or dealing with a particular bank account whilst you are going into hospital for a planned procedure. These are also very flexible and can be tailored to fit almost any situation, dealing with property and financial affairs in England and Wales.
Disadvantages to Alternative Powers of Attorney
So what is the downside to these simple Powers of Attorney? Why go to all the trouble of a Lasting Power of Attorney?
Firstly, General and Specific Powers of Attorney don’t give you the option of dealing with health and care related decisions. Secondly, they lose validity immediately if you (the donor) were to lose your mental capacity as they are only valid whilst you have mental capacity. Thirdly, they are only useful as short-term solutions, as banks and other institutions will not accept them after around 6 months. There is no legal time limit on the validity of these documents, but, in practice, banks and institutions need to be sure that you still have your mental capacity and are able to give your ongoing consent to the attorney acting for you, in order to be sure that the authority is still valid. Therefore, they ask for these to be updated regularly when they are relied on.
General Powers of Attorney are a particularly useful tool used in tandem with a Lasting Power. Both can be done at the same time, and the General Power can be used whilst the Lasting Power is getting registered. This is important when a donor is in bad health and needs help with their finances straight away.