With new research showing that only a third of over 50s have held or currently hold a lasting power of attorney for a loved one, we’ve taken a look at the implications of not having one.
Top of the list is an extra strain on the family at a difficult time.
What is a power of attorney?
A power of attorney is essentially the power to manage someone else’s affairs because that person is incapable of acting on their own behalf. This might be because that person suffers from a mental disorder, such as dementia; is physically disabled, after being in a car accident for example; or loses the ability to communicate.
Types of power of attorney
There are three main types of power of attorney in Scotland:
- Simple power of attorney – the most basic form and often used on a temporary basis, such as when the person signing the form has to go abroad to work, but needs someone else to manage his affairs at home.
- Continuing power of attorney – gives the attorney power to deal with the financial affairs of the person signing the document.
- Welfare power of attorney – gives the attorney the power to make decisions about the personal welfare of the granter.
Problems if there is no power of attorney
Without a power of attorney in place, friends and family have no real authority to deal with the finances of their loved one, or to make day to day decisions on their behalf.
They have to apply to the court in order to get this authority – which can often be a time-consuming process. This in turn, according to research from Saga Legal Solutions, can put a big strain on the family.
Even when a power of attorney is in place there can be problems in dealing with bodies such as banks, government departments and utility companies, says Saga. One in three of those surveyed say that staff do not appear to be trained to know what the power of attorney means and what their company process is to action one.
One in four report that they find themselves having to continually show certified documents to the same company every time they deal with them.
“Obtaining a lasting power of attorney saves families an enormous amount of heartache when a loved one becomes incapacitated,” said Roger Ramsden, chief executive, Saga Services. “For the individual who has granted an LPA [Lasting Power of Attorney, an English type of power of attorney] it also puts their mind at rest that they will have someone they trust acting on their behalf if the worst happens. Getting the right advice and support is key.”