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Katie Nightingale TEP, Solicitor in the preparation of wills, powers of attorney and estate planning explains further.
Who looks after your affairs if you become unwell and unable or who looks after your affairs if you are self-isolating during the coronavirus crisis? The common answer I hear is my spouse or my children, but in fact, many do not realise that no one other than you has the legal authority to deal with your own affairs.
In order to allow someone to act on your behalf and in your name, you will need to put in place a Lasting Power of Attorney, this appoints a person or people of your choice, known as your Attorney(s), to act for you. The normal timescale to obtain a legally binding registered Lasting Power of Attorney can take 6 – 8 weeks after all parties have approved and signed the document. However, the Office of the Public Guardian have issued guidance to suggest that the registration process is taking longer than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic. So, what happens in the meantime should you need help with your affairs?
Whilst you are waiting for your Lasting Powers of Attorney to be registered, you can put in a place a document known as an Ordinary Power of Attorney, sometimes called a General Power of Attorney. These documents have not been as popular in recent years due to the introduction of the far more publicised Lasting Power of Attorney. However, because of recent events over the last few months, Ordinary Powers of Attorney are back at the forefront of the legal field.
So, why are Ordinary Powers of Attorney useful right now? An Ordinary Power of Attorney can be put in place immediately and can be acted on as soon as you, the Donor, has signed the document. There is no registration time like the Lasting Power of Attorney. Therefore, if you are self-isolating and need more immediate help with your financial affairs and you are waiting for your Lasting Power of Attorney to be registered, you can put in place the Ordinary Power of Attorney to allow someone of your choice to act for you immediately.
The Ordinary Power of Attorney can only be used for your property and financial affairs and can only be used whilst you have the mental capacity to authorise your Attorney to act for you. Should you lose mental capacity, the Ordinary Power of Attorney becomes invalid. For this reason, it is very important to also put in place a Lasting Power of Attorney, which continues should you lose mental capacity at a later date. Secondly, as the Ordinary Power of Attorney can only be used for your property and financial affairs and not your general health and well-being, you need to ensure a Lasting Power of Attorney is put in place to cover both your property and financial affairs as well as your health and well-being.
Within the Ordinary Power of Attorney you can either authorise your Attorney to have a wide range of unrestricted powers and manage all of your financial affairs, or you can limit their authority to only take specific actions or deal with certain things for you, and only on your say so.
An Ordinary Power of Attorney is an excellent tool to be used as an interim measure whilst you are waiting for your Lasting Power of Attorney to be registered, particularly if you are unable to get out and about in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. They can be prepared and completed separately or at the same time as Lasting Powers of Attorney and we can help with both types of documents.
Please do get in contact with one of our friendly and professional team; Helen Strong, Emma Wallbank and Katie Nightingale on 02476 531532, if you wish to discuss anything in this article or wish to make an appointment and we will be very happy to help.