By Jamie Pouwhare
Appointing a Power of Attorney is something you should consider doing at any age.
Life can throw many curve balls…usually when you least expect them. You may find yourself in a situation that you cannot control, like having a serious accident or becoming extremely ill. The last thing you expect is to find yourself in a situation where you are no longer able to make important decisions for yourself. But it can happen and when it does, it couldn’t be more devastating for you and your loved ones. Considering appointing a Power of Attorney may help to reduce the stress on your family at this difficult time.
If you lose the capacity to make decisions without having any plans in place, then there won’t be anyone with the legal authority to manage your affairs. When your loved ones are facing such a devastating situation it may be difficult for them to decide who is the right person to make decisions on your behalf.
Most families these days rely heavily on two incomes to take care of their finances. Your family may not be able to access much needed funds at a time when they need them the most. You may have medical bills to take care of or require full time care. This is particularly the case if you lose your capacity suddenly, like from a car accident.
The most important thing you can do for your family is be prepared.
A power of attorney enables you to appoint someone to act on your behalf. Your attorney can act as your decision maker in property and financial matters. They cannot make any medical or health decisions, you will need to appoint an Enduring Guardian for these decisions.
There are two different scenarios for appointing a Power of Attorney. A general Power of Attorney is appointed when you have the ability to make your own decisions, usually only for a short period of time. This can be if you plan to go overseas or you are required to have a short-term hospital stay. The general Power of Attorney will stop operating if you can no longer make your own decisions.
An Enduring Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to take care of your property and financial affairs after you can no longer make your own decisions. This can happen if you have a serious accident or you become suddenly ill. An attorney will act in your place to do things like pay your bills, sign documents and organise your banking.
It is important when you are choosing your Power of Attorney that you choose someone you can completely trust. After all, you are entrusting your attorney with a significant responsibility.
You may be concerned about how much power this gives to someone over your affairs. However, it is the job of the attorney to act in your best interests. Your attorney cannot use your money or assets to gain any benefit from acting on your behalf. As an extra measure of safety, your attorney must keep their own assets separate from yours and keep proper records of your accounts.
Your Power of Attorney is an important legal document, particularly when appointing an Enduring Power of Attorney. It is best you get the help of a lawyer when filling in the document so that the document will meet your specific needs and circumstances. In order to complete the form your signature must be witnessed by an eligible witness. An eligible witness includes a legal practitioner, Registrar of the NSW Local Court or an accredited officer from NSW Trustee and Guardian. When appointing an Enduring Power of Attorney, you attorney must also sign the document and have a complete understanding of the obligations and responsibilities given to him or her.