How many Attorneys can I have?
You can have up to four Attorneys under one document, but is often better to not have that many.
There are also different ways your Attorneys can be appointed – either jointly (all have to sign for everything that is done), Jointly and severally (arguably the best method – any one of your appointed Attorneys can help you with anything that needs to be done) or one appointed, with others as substitute.
This is often a matter of family circumstancs and personal preference, and it best to discuss this with us and your Attorneys before deciding how to appoint them.
Do I need both types of Power of Attorney?
When most people think of ‘Power of Attorney’ they actually mean a Lasting Power of Attorney for Property and Financial Affairs. The majority of the Powers of Attorney that we assist with are this type.
If you do want to create both forms of Power of Attorney this has to be done as two separate documents, and you can even appoint different Attorneys for each role. You cannot create both forms of Attorney on one document however – two separate documents are needed.
Won’t my husband/wife automatically be able to help me?
Again, sadly, the answer is no. The banks will refuse to allow your husband or wife to access any money held in your sole name. Which, as most people these days take advantage of the tax free interest of ISA’s rather than holding their money in a joint account, causes real problems if ever you are too ill to manage your account yourself.
We therefore strongly recommend a Power of Attorney to cut through this ‘red tape’ and allow couples to assist each other with their finances if needed.
Do I really need Power of Attorney? My children would be my ‘next of kin’ wouldn’t they?
Unfortunately ‘next of kin’ is a bit of a fiction, and has no real power or authority in the modern world. Your children will have no automatic power to assist you with your financial and legal affairs (no, not even the eldest!), unless you have given them that power under a Power of Attorney document.
Can’t I just put my son/daughter’s name onto my bank account as Joint Owner?
This can sometimes work, but it can also cause chaos!
The first thing to understand, is that by putting another person onto the bank account you are effectively gifting them at least half (if not all!) of the money in the account. Whilst the person can access the money for you (or sadly, if abused, for themselves) during your lifetime, they become automatically entitled to ALL of the money in the account on your death – regardless of what you say in your Will! So if you have two children, and in your Will give your whole estate equally to them, but have one of them named on your bank accounts to ‘help out’, they will receive all of the money in your accounts on your death. It will not be split equally between them, even though this is what your Will says will happen.
Any ‘authorised signatory’ arrangements you may have with your bank for your accounts can also be withdrawn by the bank at any time, and technically are no longer valid if you become ill and no longer have capacity (“understanding”).
It is always best to avoid this as a ‘short cut’ and formalise the role by appointing the person as your Attorney.
If I make a Power of Attorney for Property & Financial Affairs does this mean I can no longer deal with my accounts myself?
The short answer is “no”. Just because you have appointed Attorneys it does certainly not mean that you can no longer deal with things yourself. Most Attorneys are appointed as a precaution – in case the person ever gets ill. It is safe to say a lot of Attorneys never actually have to do anything at all. But the power to act was there if ever needed.
It is also important to point out that your Attorney cannot ‘overrule’ you with a financial decision, and can certainly not just help themselves to your money. They are fully accountable to you, and have to, at all times, act in your ‘best interests’.
Mum/Dad or Husband/Wife have started to get ‘a bit forgetful’ – surely I don’t need Power of Attorney yet?
We wish that we got asked this question more often, as it would at least mean that we were speaking to the family member in time so that we could tell them a resounding “YES!” – start to take steps NOW!”.
Forgetfulness and being ‘a bit confused sometimes’ can often be the start of the likes of Alzheimers or Dementia, and it means that if you do not already have a Power of Attorney in place, you should start to make arrangements for this document to be created urgently! To put it off is natural, and it is certainly not an easy conversation to have with a loved one. But it is best to have the conversation, and start to take steps to ensure that if the loved ones health starts to fail, you can continue to support and assist them by being appointed as Attorney, before it is too late for them to take the decision to appoint you.
It is also crucial to act quickly, as the process of appointing your attorney can take several months to conclude.
My Mum/Dad has just been diagnosed with Alzheimers/Dementia – can they still make a Power of Attorney?
If you act quickly enough, a diagnosis of Alzheimers or Dementia in the early stages does not automatically mean that it is too late to make a Power of Attorney. But you must act quickly! Once a diagnosis is made an LPA can still be created as long as the person can satisfy a number of tests to demonstrate they still understand enough to make the Power of Attorney.
In these circumstances it is usually necessary to obtain a professional opinion of a Doctor or other specialist before the Power of Attorney can be signed, and whilst this can incur extra cost, if they are in agreement that the person still has sufficient understanding the Power of Attorney can still be made. This will then avoid the need to apply to the Court of Protection for a Deputyship Order.
What happens if we’ve left it too late?
If the person is found to no longer have sufficient understanding to create a Power of Attorney then a more formal order is needed referred to as a Court of Protection Deputyship Order.
Mum/Dad have had a stroke and can no longer sign their name.
This type of situation where a loved one is suddenly unable physically to sign does not prevent them from making a Power of Attorney. As long as they can demonstrate sufficient understanding they can still appoint an Attorney to assist with their affairs. They can either sign the document by making a mark (even an “X” can be enough, as long as correctly witnessed) or even if they cannot sign at all they can have someone else sign it ‘on their order’. Understandably there are strict witnessing requirements when creating a Power of Attorney this way, and it is therefore crucial to get good legal advice to make sure everything is done correctly.