What is a Power of Attorney and Why Might You Need One?

Power of Attorney

Though we may not like to think about it, accidents happen every day. Some accidents or unplanned events may leave you or the ones you love unable to speak for yourselves. In fact, the only certainty in life is getting older, which also carries the possibility of losing the capacity to make your own decisions regarding health care, finances, and more. On a more positive note, you may want to spend some time travelling overseas where you are not reachable to conduct your own business. No matter the circumstances, you are faced with the very real possibility that, at some time in your life, you may be unable speak for yourself. If this happens, you should prepare through the legal document known as Power of Attorney.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney operates during your lifetime to direct your affairs and can either be ‘General’ or ‘Enduring’.

General: A general power of attorney is usually used for temporary absences. For instance, if you were to go on a vacation and want to grant someone the power to sign documents in your absence, you could give them a general power of attorney and their power to act on your behalf would end when you returned. A general power of attorney will also come to an end if you were to lose capacity for some reason.

Enduring: On the other hand, an enduring power of attorney will enable your appointed  agent to be able to continue to act on your behalf in the event that you lose capacity. They will be the ones to make decisions about your care and conduct your affairs if you develop a cognitive medical condition like Alzheimer’s, or are in a coma. In the absence of an enduring power of attorney, the government will appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf, and sometimes this will draw a fee.

What decisions can be made under the Power of Attorney?

You may grant the power to make decisions regarding your personal matters, health matters, or financial matters.

Personal & health matters: These two go hand-in-hand because while who you live with may seem personal, your healthcare needs will likely play a large role in who will be the best choice for you to live with. Same goes for whether you are able to work, attend school, receive training, obtain a driver’s licence, and the mundane issues of day-to-day life (clothing, food, etc.). These powers will also include decisions about what care to pursue, accept, or refuse (like surgery or medication).

Financial matters: These powers will include distribution of income, investments, purchases, sales and real estate transactions, as well as the management of assets, bank accounts, and using the money for your care.

Definition of capacity

A Power of Attorney will protect your interests if you lack the capacity to make your own decisions any more but in order to grant the power at the outset, you need to be an adult who is capable of making your own decisions. In order to have ‘capacity’, you must be able to understand the nature of your decisions and their effect, free and able to make said decisions, and be able to communicate your decisions. If you are unable to meet these criteria, it will be determined that you lack capacity.

For over 30 years, Twohill Lawyers have been providing comprehensive legal help to the people of the Gold Coast community. If you require further information or legal assistance, please contact us today for a 15-minute, no obligation advice over the phone on 07 5571 1450 or email admin@twohilllawyers.com.au.