In order for someone to make financial or medical decisions on your behalf, you'll need to give them Power of Attorney over your affairs.

However, you are only able to set up a Power of Attorney while you still have the capability to consider information and make your own decisions – ie mental capacity.

What types of Powers of Attorney are there?

The most common form of Power of Attorney is a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).

An LPA is an ongoing arrangement with no expiry date which enables another person to make decisions on your behalf. Once registered, it can be used immediately, with your permission while you still have capacity – or, alternatively, it can take effect when you lose mental capacity.

The document needs to be registered with the Government through the Office of the Public Guardian, and only applies to England and Wales.

Types of Lasting Power of Attorney

There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney – for Health and Care Decisions, and Property and Financial Affairs.

Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Care Decisions allows someone to make decisions on your behalf only if you have lost mental capacity.  Your attorney(s) could make decisions on:

  • what medical treatment you receive, such as life-sustaining treatment.
  • day-to-day matters such as your diet, dress or daily routine.
  • giving or refusing consent to health care.
  • staying in your own home and getting help and support from social services.
  • moving into a nursing home (residential care) and finding a good care home.

The LPA for Property and Financial Affairs gives your attorney the power to make decisions about your money and property, including:

  • Managing bank or building society accounts
  • Paying bills
  • Collecting a pension or benefits if necessary
  • Selling your home

Once registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, it can be used immediately, or held in readiness until you lose capacity.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, Ordinary Powers of Attorney are known as General Powers of Attorney (GPA), and where the person giving authority lacks capacity, a Continuing Power of Attorney (CPA) is required to control their financial affairs – which must be registered with the Scottish OPG.

For permissions about a granter's health and welfare, a Welfare Power of Attorney (WPA) is required, which also needs to be registered and can only be used if the donor lacks capacity.

In Northern Ireland, Enduring Power of Attorneys (EPAs) are still used. EPAs were set up in October 2007 and can still be used to control property or financial affairs of the donor – and if the donor has mental capacity, an existing EPA can be used without being registered at the OPG. If the donor lacks capacity, for example, as the result of dementia or a stroke, the EPA must be registered to be used.

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.