Last December a new campaign was launched across Glasgow to raise awareness about the importance of having a Power of Attorney.NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Glasgow City Council joined forces with Alzheimer Scotland and Scottish Care to highlight the need to “Start the Conversation” with family members about putting a Power of Attorney in place.
Every year thousands of people in Scotland lose capacity-it could be an accident, a head injury, a stroke or on-going progressive illness. Such occurrences are not age prescriptive. The only way you can plan for your future is to appoint an Attorney who can make decisions for you when you are unable to do so for yourself. Anyone over the age of 16 can make a Power of Attorney.
So what is a Power Of Attorney? It is a written legal document giving someone else authority to take actions or make decisions on your behalf. You choose who you want to act as your Attorney and what powers you want the Attorney to have. The deed can cover both financial and welfare provisions.
The financial provisions can include power to purchase and sell heritable property, power to operate bank accounts, power to claim and receive all pensions, benefits, allowances etc. There are many other powers which can be included or left out as appropriate, depending on your circumstances. Welfare powers can include power to decide where you should live, to have access to your personal information, to consent or withhold consent to medical treatment. Again there are other powers that can be specified to meet your individual needs. The deed can be limited to cover a certain transaction or to cover only a specified period of time.
You can appoint anyone you wish to be your Attorney e g family member, friend or solicitor. Importantly you should appoint only someone you trust- whoever you feel comfortable with dealing with your affairs.
To become effective and to allow your Attorney to act on your behalf the Power of Attorney must be registered with the Office of Public Guardian which supervises all such appointments. It is therefore possible for a Power of Attorney to be drawn up now and put aside to be registered in the future when appropriate. Further provision can be made in the Power of Attorney that it must not be registered unless a doctor certifies that you are unable to manage your own affairs.
In a different context a Power of Attorney could be used to help in everyday life. For example couples may decide to grant each other Power of Attorney if one partner spends a lot of time working overseas. Someone may grant a Power of Attorney to a trusted friend or professional to complete a transaction for example a house purchase settling when the grantee is out of the country. A student may grant a Power of Attorney in favour of their parents while they explore the world during a gap year.
One last point to note if you have not granted a Power of Attorney in advance and you do lose capacity then the courts have to appoint someone to act as your guardian. There are processes by which family members can apply to be granted these powers but it is a long and expensive process requiring a court hearing.
YES A POWER OF ATTORNEY IS A GOOD IDEA.