If you think of Powers of Attorney as preparation for your declining years, then it might be time to think again.
In fact, Powers of Attorney existed long before the ‘Continuing’ and ‘Welfare’ versions we associate with Powers of Attorney (POA) came into existence – and for good reason.
So, why is it a good idea to have one in place whatever your age?
Firstly, accidents (and illness) will happen at any age. By definition, they are unexpected, so you can never be certain that they won’t happen to you. But while they may be unpredictable, that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for them. Having a POA in place means that your loved ones can act on your behalf if an illness or accident makes it difficult for you to manage your own affairs. Your family will certainly find a POA a lot easier and cheaper than the stressful and time-consuming process of applying to manage your affairs through a Guardianship order.
But having a POA in place doesn’t mean that you lose control. It is up to you to decide under what circumstances your POA comes in to effect. You may, for example, specify that it should only apply if you are incapacitated and then only for the period of your incapacity. And having a POA doesn’t mean that you can no longer make decisions, it means only that others can also take action for you if necessary. Say you are injured and have difficulty moving – you can still make decisions as you would normally, but whoever you choose to exercise your POA can act for you in circumstances when you can’t be present.
Indeed, there are some circumstances where it is useful to have a Power of Attorney in place even if you are perfectly capable of making decisions yourself. Traditionally, a POA was used to provide a trusted friend, relative or professional like a solicitor with the power to act on your behalf if you were going to be out of the country for long periods of time. If you think you might work abroad or have property overseas, then a POA can be a great asset in helping you to manage your affairs at home.
In short, a Power of Attorney can be a convenient tool if you are often away and a valuable insurance policy in case you become incapacitated. But whichever is your priority, there’s no right time to draw one up. In fact, the best time to start is – well, now.