Having one in place does not mean that you lose the power to make your own decisions – it is simply there when required if you lose the mental capacity to handle your affairs in the future.

It is hugely important to have a Power of Attorney in place for a number of reasons. Firstly, once you reach the point where you fear you are losing mental capacity, setting up a Power of Attorney at that point becomes more difficult because the Court of Protection may not accept it for a lack of capacity. This means your family would have to apply to the Court for a Deputyship order to handle your affairs, which can also be a long and expensive process. You can avoid all the upset that situation would cause by setting up a Power of Attorney well in advance.

Secondly, failing to set up a Power of Attorney could mean that your family is at the discretion of the authorities when trying to arrange care for you if you become ill. Family members with Power of Attorney are able to access their relative's bank account on their behalf to pay for them to live in a care home, for example.

Think of a Power of Attorney as having similar importance to a Will, except it can come into play to safeguard your interests when you're still alive. You don't want to be left in a situation where you cannot manage your own affairs but your family don't have the power to do it either – it puts you and your family in a very difficult position and is likely to cause unnecessary distress at what would be an already tough time.

If you would like to set up a Power of Attorney, is recommended that you obtain legal advice first.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.