What is a Power of Attorney?

Person signing Power of Attorney document

A Power of Attorney is a legally-binding document which lets you appoint someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf for a period of time. Depending on your circumstances, you might need a temporary or long term arrangement in place to help someone make decisions on your behalf.

Why might I need a Power of Attorney?

There are several reasons why you might ask someone you trust to make decisions for you or act on your behalf:

  • being in hospital for an operation
  • being away from home or overseas for a period of time
  • diagnosed with a life limiting illness
  • suffering from dementia
  • help with everyday tasks like paying bills

What are the different types of Power of Attorney?

There are three types of Power of Attorney. You can set up more than one depending on your personal circumstances and requirements. It’s important to remember that you can only set up a Power of Attorney whilst you still have the mental capacity to make important decisions about your future.

If you lose mental capacity and you haven’t got a Power of Attorney in place, someone will need to apply to The Court of Protection (England) to become your Deputy and take control of your finances to help you and act on your behalf. This process can take several months.

Ordinary Power of Attorney

An Ordinary Power of Attorney (POA) can be for something specific like buying a house, and it can be for a temporary period – for example, if you need someone to make decisions on your behalf during a hospital stay or whilst you are on a holiday or away on business. It is only valid whilst you have mental capacity.

Lasting Power of Attorney

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) allows you to appoint one or more people to act on your behalf. You can set up two different LPAs, one for Property and Financial Affairs and one for Health and Welfare. The LPA is the only type of Power of Attorney which is still valid even after you have lost mental capacity. See our article What is a Lasting Power of Attorney for more detailed information about this type and how to set one up.

All LPAs must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (England) before they can be used.

Enduring Power of Attorney

Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPA) were replaced by Lasting Power of Attorneys in October 2007. However, if you completed one correctly and signed it before October 1, 2007, it may still be valid so long as your attorney has mental capacity, they have not been declared bankrupt or subject to a Debt Relief Order (DRO) or their power has not been removed by the Court of Protection.

  • An EPA is only valid for dealing with decisions about property and financial matters. It cannot be used to make decisions about health and welfare
  • It can be used from the moment it is signed.
  • It is only necessary to register an EPA once the Donor loses capacity.

How long do the Powers of Attorney last?

Powers of Attorney are only valid whilst you are alive. An EPA or POA is also only valid whilst you have mental capacity. After you die, your will determines who is responsible for managing your Estate - your Executor(s) - and who will receive your money and property.

Cancelling a Power of Attorney

You must still have mental capacity to cancel or revoke an existing POA or EPA. The process to cancel each type is slightly different, so you need to make sure you are following the correct steps if you want to cancel a power of attorney already in place.

How to cancel a Power of Attorney

The easiest way to cancel a POA is to fill in a Power of Attorney revocation form. You can find a free online revocation form here. Make four to five copies of the document. Give one copy of the document to each person who is named in the POA to advise them you are revoking the POA.

Give one document to a third party such as your solicitor or bank. Keep the other copy with the original POA in a safe place.

How to cancel an Enduring Power of Attorney

To cancel an EPA you need to make a ‘Deed of Revocation’ stating that you wish to cancel the EPA. Keep the deed with the original EPA form. You must let your attorney or attorneys and any relevant banks and financial providers know that you’re cancelling your EPA.

How to cancel a Lasting Power of Attorney

The only way to cancel an existing and registered LPA is via the Office of the Public Guardian See Ending your Lasting Power of Attorney for details.

This article was written on 21 September 2020; all information was correct at the time of writing.

For up-to-date information, regularly check Citizens Advice website.

Related Articles