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Managing someone's legal affairs

Applying for power of attorney

To apply for power of attorney, the person you care for must first apply using the right forms. GOV.UK has information to help you understand what having lasting power of attorney (LPA) will mean for you and the person you care for. You can also make a lasting power of attorney online.

Filling in the forms

Before completing the forms, look at the guidance and the explanatory notes together with the person you care for, if possible. There are separate guides for people who want to make an LPA and those taking on the role of LPA. The person making an application to give someone else LPA over their affairs is referred to as the 'donor'.

After reading the guidance you can complete the forms. They can be downloaded from the Office of the Public Guardian and filled in on screen.

There are two packs, one for personal welfare LPA and one for property and affairs LPA. Each pack contains:

  • the LPA form,
  • notes for completing the LPA form,
  • guidance for people making an LPA,
  • guidance for people taking on the role of LPA,
  • guidance for certificate providers and witnesses,
  • Office of the Public Guardian and Court of Protection service standards,
  • fees, exemptions and remissions, and
  • application for a fee exemption or remission.

The forms are designed to be straightforward but you may need to talk to a lawyer if you have problems answering any of the questions, or to check what you have done. The Law Society has details of solicitors who specialise in this area. You can also call the Office of the Public Guardian and the Court of Protection first to see if they can help (0300 456 0300).

Legal aid, in the form of advice and assistance, may be available for lasting power of attorney welfare issues, but not for property lasting power of attorney. The Law Society will be able to tell you which solicitors offer legal aid. You will be eligible for this legal aid only if you pass a means test. You can contact the Law Society by writing to 100-113 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1PL or by calling 020 7242 1222.

You can also search for solicitors yourself on the Law Society’s online directory (under Area of law, specify Mental health and incapacity law).

Execution and 'certificate of capacity'

Once the form has been filled in it has to be signed (or 'executed') in the presence of a witness who certifies that when the form was signed, the person granting the power of attorney:

  • understood its purpose and the scope of authority being granted,
  • was not being unduly pressured or being defrauded, and
  • was not affected by anything else that could affect the validity of the document.

This certificate can be signed by either someone known to the person making the LPA for at least two years, or by someone who "because of their relevant professional skills and expertise, considers themselves able to provide the certificate”. 

This person must be acting independently and must not be a relative, business partner or employee, or anyone involved in a care home where the person lives.

If the person you care for is under a section of the Mental Health Act 1983 they can still make a lasting power of attorney order as long as they have the mental capacity to do so.

Click on the bars below for more detailed information on applying for power of attorney.

Welfare lasting power of attorney

Having a lasting power of attorney (LPA) over someone’s personal welfare may mean you need to make decisions about the healthcare and welfare of the person you are looking after. There may be one or more people with this responsibility. You will each be referred to as the person’s 'attorney'.

If you have this power, you may have to decide:

  • where the person is to live,
  • whether a care home or a nursing home is best for them and which one, or
  • whether the person can continue to live at home with help from social services.

You will be able to decide if the person you're looking after should:

  • receive healthcare treatment,
  • not receive a particular healthcare treatment, or
  • stop receiving a particular healthcare treatment.

Some people who have a progressive illness sometimes make a decision about whether they would want a particular treatment in the future. They write down or tell others these wishes while they are mentally well or have 'mental capacity'. 

If the person you're looking after made a decision, in advance of losing their mental capacity, to refuse future medical treatment (known as an advance decision) then you cannot override their decision unless the LPA was made later and specifies that you have the power to do so.

What personal welfare power of attorney can’t do

There are some decisions that someone with personal welfare LPA cannot make for another person. These include refusal of any medication prescribed by a responsible clinician if the person is under a section of the Mental Health Act 1983, or on leave from hospital. However, it may help to seek further advice, including legal advice, if you're concerned about medication issues. The Law Society can provide details of solicitors with specialist knowledge.

If the person you're looking after is under a guardianship order, you can not make decisions about where they should live, even though you have LPA. You will not be able to make any decisions which conflict with the wishes of a guardian.

You must check whether, as personal welfare LPA, you can make a decision about life-sustaining treatment. Some advance decisions specifically deal with circumstances in which the person wishes to refuse life-sustaining treatment, and there are special considerations to be addressed.

Use of restraint

If you have personal welfare LPA you may sometimes consider 'restraining' (stopping or hindering) the person you're looking after from doing something that you think will harm them or others.

Under the law you are considered to be restraining the person you are looking after if you:

  • physically force the person to do, or stop doing, something,
  • threaten to physically force the person to do, or stop doing, something,
  • prevent the person from going somewhere or doing something they want to, or
  • ask someone else to do any of the things listed above.

You should not restrain the person unless:

  • you believe the person you're looking after does not have the mental ability or capacity to make a decision about that particular issue, and
  • you believe it is necessary to use restraint to prevent the person from harming themselves, and
  • it is a reasonable action to take (or proportionate response) because you believe the person may suffer serious harm. For example, it would be allowed to physically stop someone from crossing the road if they were walking into traffic. It would not be allowed to stop them from crossing the road if it were safe for them to do so.

The Office of the Public Guardian has guidance on what taking on the role of personal welfare lasting power of attorney will mean for you.

Property and affairs Lasting Power of Attorney

If you have property and affairs lasting power of attorney (LPA) you will be allowed, as an 'attorney' of the person you're looking after, to make decisions on their behalf. These include:

  • writing cheques and paying bills,
  • selling or renting property,
  • carrying out their trade or business,
  • honouring any contractual obligations, and
  • conducting legal proceedings on their behalf. 

The attorney is allowed to make gifts in the following circumstances:

  • on customary occasions to those related to or connected with the person you are looking after, or
  • to any charity to which gifts had or might have been expected to be made, and
  • as long as the value of each gift is not unreasonable in the circumstances.

'Customary occasion' means, for example, a birthday, a marriage or civil partnership or any other instance on which presents are commonly given within families or among friends or associates.

The Office of the Public Guardian provides guidance on what taking on the role of property and affairs LPA will mean for you.

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Page last reviewed: 13/06/2012

Next review due: 13/06/2014

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Media last reviewed: 17/07/2013

Next review due: 17/07/2015