It’s perhaps not one of the most festive adverts, but you may have seen the advert on TV about Father Christmas getting stuck in a chimney while delivering presents and being thankful that Mrs Claus has had the forethought to take out a Power of Attorney which allows her to deal with unexpected events. It’s a clever way of making a very important point – that whatever our age and medical condition, making a Power of Attorney agreement is something we should be considering.

What exactly is a Power of Attorney?

The exact definition of Power of Attorney differs slightly in English, Northern Irish and Scots law, but in essence it is a legal contract between two people. The person making the Power of Attorney agreement nominates someone else to act on their behalf if they should be unable to do so through ill health. There are two types of Power of Attorney; the first gives the Attorney the ability to make decisions regarding medical treatment, and the other gives them control over financial affairs. Some people choose to make both type of agreement, others just one depending on circumstances.

Making a Power of Attorney Agreement

One of the major misconceptions about Powers of Attorney agreements is that it is something that you only need to think about when you are diagnosed with a serious illness, or when you’re already struggling to manage your financial affairs. In fact, anyone over the age of 18 with the mental capacity to make decisions can make a Power of Attorney agreement. Usually, people making a Power of Attorney use a solicitor to help them complete the forms, nominate their Attorney and make sure that the agreements are signed, dated and witnessed properly. It is possible to print the forms off the internet or complete the forms online, but make sure you have checked everything is done properly.

Who Can Be An Attorney?

The person making the Power of Attorney can choose whoever they like to be their Attorney. Usually, just one person is nominated, but you can choose two Attorneys if you like. Attorneys are often spouses or children, but might also be trusted professionals like solicitors. When choosing an Attorney, think about how well they look after their own finances and make decisions before agreeing to trust them with your affairs. There are also certain restrictions on who can serve as an Attorney. People nominated have to be over the age of 18 (or 16 in Scotland) at the time of making the agreement, and if your agreement will give them financial control, you are not allowed to choose someone who is bankrupt, or who has a Debt Relief Order (DRO). You can also write a clause into the agreement allowing an Attorney to be replaced if they’re not willing or able to act for you at some point in the future. If you are appointing someone outside your immediate family, they will also have to have a DBS check done to ensure they are an appropriate Attorney. If the person is a solicitor or holds another position of responsibility, they may have done this already.