There are a lot of mysteries, myths and misinformation around
the Power of Attorney, but there needn't be if you understand
and know the truths behind it.
A power of attorney is a document you can sign to appoint
another person as your attorney to act for you in legal, financial
and property matters.
It doesn't have to be a lawyer. It can be a friend, family
member or someone else, but must always be someone you trust
implicitly. You can have two or more people who can't act
without the other's approval.
The times when you may need a power of attorney include:
you are going overseas or are out of touch for a while and
would like someone to have the power to deal with your financial,
legal or property affairs while you are away.
you may be facing a time when your decision-making capacity
becomes impaired such as a medical or health problem.
you may be physically unable to execute documents or duties and
would like another person to be able to deal with your
you may be going into hospital or care for an indefinite period
You don't have to sign over all power to your attorney, and
in some cases it may be best not to do so. They are accountable to
no one. If wrongdoing is suspected it will have to be proved in
The powers you give can be as wide or as narrow as you wish. You
can set limits on financial transactions and confine it to just
In NSW the power of attorney does not give power to make
personal decisions or decisions relating to health care or
lifestyle on your behalf should you lose the capacity to do so. If
you want to do this you will - while you still have the capacity to
make such decisions - need to appoint what's called an enduring
There are two types of powers of attorney.
A General Power of Attorney is only valid while you are still
personally able to carry out any of the powers you have given your
attorney such as banking and selling property.
An Enduring Power of Attorney is for when you will need someone
to make decisions for you as you lose the capacity to do so for
yourself. These appointments have to be witnessed by a solicitor,
barrister or court registrar, and must be made while you are still
of sound mind.
There are all sorts of legal requirements, pitfalls and caveats
on these powers, and it would be best to consult a legal expert
before committing yourself.
If you are doing a Will, or you are the executor of a deceased estate, consider what taxes and duties could be payable.
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