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Many people are aware of the importance for having a valid Will but not as aware of the importance for lasting powers of attorney. You will need to appoint people to act as your attorneys to look after your affairs during your lifetime, if you become unable to do so.
You need to consider very carefully who you will choose to be your attorney as they will be responsible for following your wishes and making decisions. Gail Hall of Warners Solicitors in Tonbridge outlines some of the things to think about when you decide who to trust with your lasting power of attorney.
What skills do they need?
If your attorneys need to step in to handle your finances and make decisions about your health and welfare when you are unable to, you will want to ensure they are competent to do so. The skills required will depend on the complexity of your investments and any health condition. Do they need to be able to understand the stock market? Are there investment properties to manage, which require knowledge of the responsibilities of a landlord? If all your finances are online, they will need digital skills. Do you need someone confident and assertive to argue for particular healthcare arrangements?
Do they know your wishes?
A key issue to consider when choosing your attorneys is whether they know and understand your wishes. This could be your preferences around personal healthcare and treatment, how your religious or ethical beliefs impact your decisions, and personal preferences regarding lifestyle, medical treatment or residential care.
Should I appoint a close relative?
It is common to appoint close family members as attorneys as they probably know you best, but this is not always ideal in practice. Your closest relatives may not always agree with you on issues of money or health, and they may not see eye to eye when a major decision needs to be made. You need to be sure they will make decisions in your best interests.
Age and health
If you are inclined to appoint your spouse or partner who is a similar age to you, or has their own health issues, you need to think particularly carefully. Unless they are a lot younger than you, will they be well enough to act as your attorney when the need arises?
Could I appoint a friend or a professional attorney?
Your attorneys do not have to be family; you may prefer to appoint a close friend who knows and understands you better than any relative. A key issue to consider is whether you are confident you have known your friend long enough to trust them with making important decisions.
Alternatively, think about appointing a professional as your attorney. Although a professional attorney will make a charge when acting for you, you will have peace of mind that an experienced lawyer will be looking after your affairs and that they have to abide by a strict code of conduct.
Ideally, your attorneys should be local to you so that they can visit you easily to discuss issues and decisions for as long as you are able. They will also have easier access to your property, your bank, your health care provider, hospital, etc.
There is the inherent risk that anyone you appoint may become ill, moves away or no longer wants to be your attorney. You can deal with these risks by nominating a replacement attorney who will have authority to act instead. You will need to think just as carefully about issues such as location, age and health.
Can you trust them?
Whoever you choose, your attorney must have your absolute trust because they will have to follow your instructions and respect any preferences you include in the lasting power of attorney. The law also requires your attorneys to help you make your own decisions as much as you are able to at the relevant time. You should think about whether your potential attorneys know you well enough to understand and empathise with your needs and wishes.
Do they want the responsibility?
You may think you have the perfect attorney in mind, but they may feel they will not have the time, skills or energy to commit to the role; or they may simply not want the responsibility. Do not forget to ask them first.
What if there is no one you trust?
Where there is no one you can trust, think about appointing a professional attorney instead. Talk to us about how we can look after you when you become unable to make your own decisions.
For further information, please contact Warners Solicitors on 01732 770660 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Warners has offices in Tonbridge and Sevenoaks, Kent.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.