Powers of attorney come in two forms. Ordinary Power of Attorney is used when you are mentally competent, but still need some level of help (perhaps after an accident). Lasting Power of Attorney (formerly Enduring Power of Attorney) allows people to make decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. LPAs themselves come in two forms: Health and Welfare and Property and Financial Affairs.
All three kinds of PoA are important and need to be drawn up with care. Here are some points you should consider.
How many attorneys do you want?
You can give Power of Attorney to more than one person and it can be very sensible to do so. This can ensure that no single person becomes over-burdened (given that they will presumably have other commitments). It can also give you access to a wider range of knowledge and expertise. This can all help to ensure that your affairs are managed as capably as possible.
At the same time, however, you want to ensure that decisions can still be taken smoothly, especially since some of them may need to be taken quickly. This means that you will need to think carefully about whether or not you always want the attorneys to take action together or if you’re going to allow them to take decisions individually. Either way, you’ll have to set the ground rules on which these decisions are to be taken.
How will you choose your attorney(s)?
Only you can decide this. When you do, however, there are three key points it’s advisable to consider very carefully.
Firstly, how well do your attorneys know you? Their job is to make the choices you would have wanted them to make. This means that they have to know you well enough to be able to take at least an educated guess on what you would like them to do in any given situation. While this may seem like stating the obvious, the key point to notes is that your wishes may change over time in line with your life events. This means that your attorneys have to be in regular enough contact with you to know your current views, not the ones you held previously.
Secondly, how well do your attorneys know the subject area? They don’t necessarily have to be experts in it. They do, however, have to be able to grasp what could be complex information and process it quickly so that they can make important decisions. It might, therefore, be helpful if they had at least some knowledge of it or, as a minimum, some interest in it.
Thirdly, how well do your attorneys know (and get on with) each other? You are, effectively, putting together a work team. This means that, not only do you have to get on at least reasonably well with your employees, they have to get on reasonably well with each other.
Remember that any PoA is a living document
Like wills, PoAs are not “set and forget” documents. They need to be updated as your circumstances change. They may also need to be updated as other people’s circumstances change. For example, someone who was quite happy to be one of your attorneys before they had children might not be able to manage the responsibility while their family is young. They may, however, be perfectly happy to join your team again when their children are a bit older.
It’s advisable to have a PoA drawn up by a lawyer
These days, many organizations have to be very careful about making sure that they only act on the wishes of their customer or their customer’s legally-appointed representative(s). It’s therefore highly advisable to have a lawyer draw up your PoA to ensure it meets all relevant requirements.