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Managing someone's legal affairs

Power of attorney

Anyone aged 18 or older who has the mental ability to make decisions for themselves can arrange for someone else to make these decisions for them in the future. This can be done at any time. This legal authority is called "power of attorney". The person who is given power of attorney is known as the 'attorney' and must be over 18 years old.

Appointing attorneys

The person you care for can appoint one person as their attorney. Or they can appoint more than one attorney to act as follows:

  • "jointly", meaning they must always make decisions together
  • "jointly and severally", meaning they can make some decisions together and some individually
  • "jointly" on some matters, and "jointly and severally" on others

For example, someone can appoint attorneys to act jointly when making decisions over their money but state that only one attorney, acting independently (or "severally"), should decide where the person should live. The person has the right to say that the attorneys must act jointly on all their affairs.

It is up to the person who is making the power of attorney to decide how many attorneys they want and how they should act. However, if more than one attorney is appointed to deal with the same issue, then they must act jointly unless the power of attorney states they do not need to.

Types of power of attorney

There are three different types of power of attorney:

  • lasting power of attorney (LPA), for matters relating to property and affairs
  • LPA for matters relating to the person’s welfare
  • enduring power of attorney (EPA) concerning only property and affairs, made under a previous law, the Enduring Powers of Attorney Act 1985 (before the Mental Capacity Act 2005 came into effect in this area. An EPA made before October 1 2007 remains valid)

The LPA has to be made in a fixed legal way and is not legally recognised until it is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. The person making the power of attorney (known as the donor) can register the LPA while they are able to make decisions for themselves. Alternatively, it can be registered by the attorney at any time. To find out more, read Registering a power of attorney.

An EPA made under the old law can only be registered if the person is losing, or has lost, their mental capacity. It must be registered by the attorney.

There are two separate legal documents:

  • the personal welfare LPA
  • the property and affairs LPA

These legal documents can be made and registered at different times, or together. The person you're looking after can appoint one attorney or more to act for them regarding both their personal welfare and property and affairs.

You can apply for LPA on the GOV.UK website, or you can contact the Office of the Public Guardian:

  • by post at the Office of the Public Guardian, PO Box 16185, Birmingham, B2 2WH; or
  • by phone on 0300 456 0300 and lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (Wednesday, 10am to 5pm).

To find out more, read Applying for power of attorney. You can also find out about Cancelling a power of attorney.

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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

attorney said on 12 March 2013

First and foremost do not use a Power of Attorney unless you absolutely need one. If you need a power of attorney have one prepared but do not sign it until you actually need it. Make sure there is an expiration date on the power of attorney, usually for a short period of time and never longer than 2 years.

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Page last reviewed: 19/08/2013

Next review due: 19/08/2015

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