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Power of attorney. Dealing with other people's debts.

If someone you know is struggling to deal with their own debts, you can usually speak to us on their behalf. This can normally be arranged by the person you’re helping giving permission over the phone or in writing.

Alternatively, they could give you power of attorney. This means they’re giving you permission, in a legally recognised way, to act on their behalf and make decisions for them, rather than just you dealing with their debts.

If you need debt advice but know that discussing it would be very stressful or difficult for you, giving power of attorney to someone you trust may help.

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What are the different types of power of attorney? 

There are two types of power of attorney, and depending on the situation you may need to apply for one or both of these:

  • Power of attorney for health and welfare decisions – this would be used if you need to make decision about someone’s medical treatment or care
  • Power of attorney for property and financial affairs – this would be used it you need to help someone deal with debts, mortgaged property, pensions or investments

The terms used and the process to set up power of attorney vary slightly between countries within the UK, but the same principles apply. 

When is power of attorney useful?

If you’re helping someone deal with their debts, applying for power of attorney gives you a single document which will be recognised by all their lenders. Sending a copy of this to all their lenders may be easier than separately contacting each one to set up permission for you to speak to them.

Power of attorney can be helpful where someone struggles to deal with their finances because of mental or physical health problems or communication difficulties. It can also be useful if someone finds it hard to contact their creditors, for example because they’re abroad or in prison.

Who can have power of attorney?

Almost anyone can act as an attorney. People who need this help usually appoint a trusted family member or friend, but a legal, medical or care professional may also be able to take on this role. 

An attorney must be 18 or over (16 or over in Scotland). Someone who’s currently bankrupt can’t act as an attorney on property and financial affairs but can oversee health and welfare decisions.

Helping someone who can no longer give permission

Someone can only give you power of attorney to act on their behalf it they’re able to make this decision for themselves. If someone’s no longer able to make decisions for themselves, for example because of illness, dementia or injury, they can’t give you power of attorney. 

In these cases, you may need to apply to a court to give you permission to make decisions for them. This can be much more complicated and there are usually costs involved. You may need help from a solicitor, social services or a medical or care professional to set this up.

If you’re helping an older person deal with their debts, Age UK can give you information about power of attorney. Their website has useful factsheets and you can call them on 0800 169 2081.

Further help with power of attorney

If the person you’re helping has any mental or physical health issues, communication difficulties or substance misuse problems, your local authority social services department or any health or care professionals who are already involved may be able to give you further advice on power of attorney.  

The following Government websites give further information on the process of setting up power of attorney, including forms and costs:

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Whether you want to speak to us on behalf of someone else, or need advice on your own debts, we're here for you. Our anonymous online advice tool Debt Remedy can help you put together a personal action plan in around 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can speak to our friendly advisors over the telephone