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.