Power of Attorney

Better care for the elderly evident as rising number of people register for power of attorney

Power of attorney (LPA) is a legal document that can be used to give another person the authority to make health care decisions, financial transactions, or sign legal documents that you may not be able to do for yourself for some reason, giving you peace of mind that someone you trust is in charge of your affairs.

Over 5 million UK residents have a registered lasting power of attorney in place giving them peace of mind that someone they trust is in charge of their affairs. In recent years, there has been a dramatic growth in registrations, reflecting a growing trend towards improved security and care for the elderly.

A high proportion of the UK elderly population are living independently or in care homes, so having power of attorneys in place can bring much-needed reassurance and allow for more informed financial planning.

If you’re aged 18 or older and have the mental capacity to make financial, property, and medical decisions for yourself, you can arrange for someone else to make these decisions for you in the future. The person making the power of attorney is called a donor and the person appointed to act on their behalf is called an attorney.

Powers of attorney may be short term – because you’re in hospital, abroad or you’re finding it harder to get out and about to the bank or post office, and you may need help with everyday tasks such as paying bills, or it may be longer-term – say, if you’ve have been diagnosed with dementia and risk losing your mental capacity to make important decisions.

There are two types of power of attorney and you can set up both:

Ordinary power of attorney

This covers decisions about your financial affairs and is only valid while you have mental capacity to make your own decisions. It is suitable if you need cover for a temporary period (hospital stay or holiday) or if you find it hard to get out, or you want someone to act for you. You can limit the power you give your attorney so that they can only deal with certain assets, for example, your bank account but not your home.

Lasting power of attorney (LPA)

LPAs are used if there comes a time when you don’t have the mental capacity to make your own decisions and you need to ensure you’re covered in the future. There are two types of LPA:

  1. For financial decisions: 
  • buying or selling property
  • paying the mortgage, investing money & paying bills
  • collecting pension or benefits
  1. For health and care decisions: 
  • your medical care
  • moving into a care home
  • your daily routine – washing, dressing, eating
  • life-saving treatment

Setting up an LPA is set to get easier

The Office of the Public Guardian is responsible for processing LPA applications. Due to rising demand and Covid-related labour shortages, it currently takes around 20 weeks for an LPA to be processed. The current system is mainly paper-based. However, this could change in the near future as the government is now reviewing how to simplify the application process online.  

Enduring power of attorney (EPAs) were replaced by LPAs in October 2007. However, if you made and signed an EPA before then, it should still be valid.

If you want to set up an ordinary power of attorney you should contact your local Citizen’s Advice or get advice from a solicitor. For help deciding if you should make a lasting power of attorney, contact the Office of the Public Guardian – customerservices@publicguardian.gov.uk or telephone 0300 456 0300.

Click here to read seven steps to take when writing a will.

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