Graeme Dickson of Thorntons’ Private Client team discusses why making a Power of Attorney should be on everyone's New Year resolution list.
We are now a couple of weeks into the New Year after the “challenges” of 2020 – did you make any resolutions, and are you managing to keep them? Every new year a whole host of resolutions are made: ‘new year, new me’; ‘I will go to the gym three times a week’; ‘I will stick to that diet’; the list goes on. We have all had a lot of time to think about goals recently and there is a lot to catch up on after last year. Often resolutions revolve around physical health but what about considering your mental health? Of course we all hope to be able to think for ourselves and make our own decisions for as long as we can, but what if we can’t? In order to make decisions for you, your relatives or friends would need some kind of legal authority. This can come in the form of a Power of Attorney.
Right now you might be thinking you are not old enough to have a Power of Attorney, but Powers of Attorney are not just for when you are older or have a condition affecting your mental abilities like dementia. They can be used, for example, if you are unwell and just need someone to carry out an instruction for you. You would keep control and your attorney can simply carry out your requests. Or what if you have an accident and couldn’t make decisions for a period of time? Your attorney can make sure your finances keep running as normal and would be able to make any decisions that are needed about your welfare (only if you were unable to make these decisions yourself).
Powers of Attorney are like an insurance policy – we hope they aren’t needed but they are there just in case – and as with insurance it is better to put one in place sooner rather than later. If you don’t have a Power of Attorney in place and someone unexpectedly needs to act on your behalf, your family or friends would need to go through a process of obtaining a Guardianship, a process where a Court decides who can make decisions for you. Not only is this a more expensive route but it is also far more time consuming which could cause delays in somebody being able to act for you. It can also mean that the Guardian only gets granted much more limited powers than the wider scope you could have granted under a Power of Attorney. By having a Power of Attorney in place it is there and ready to be used as soon as it is needed. You can also ensure your Attorneys have wide enough powers so they can fully act/.
We have been delighted to see the awareness of Powers of Attorney increasing over the last year or so and if 2020 taught us nothing else it is that we need to be ready for the unexpected. A Power of Attorney is an important step to take to be prepared for whatever 2021 brings. That said I am hoping for a less disruptive year!
Graeme Dickson is a member of Thorntons Private Client Department. Should you require any further information on Powers of Attorney please contact Graeme on 0131 322 6166, email email@example.com or contact any member of the Private Client Team.