What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is where a person gives authority to another person (usually a relative or friend) to help manage their affairs. The vast majority of people opt for a Continuing (sometimes referred to as Financial) & Welfare Power of Attorney.
The Continuing/Financial aspect can allow your attorney(s) to deal with everyday tasks such as dealing with your bank accounts, making payments on your behalf, collecting monies/benefits on your behalf, signing documents etc. This aspect can be used as soon as the document is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian even if the granter still has capacity.
The Welfare aspect can only be used when the granter loses capacity. This allows the attorney to consent to medical treatment, decide on care arrangements, decide where the granter’s permanent place of residence should be etc.
A Power of Attorney can only be signed by a granter if they have capacity to understand and sign the document. Without a Power of Attorney, a family member or friend may not be able to carry out some of the above tasks. The only alternative is to seek a Guardianship Order which involves raising a court action. This is costly and time consuming.
More people are realising the importance of having a Power of Attorney. It may sit in a drawer and never be used, but it gives people peace of mind knowing it’s there.
The Rise of Power of Attorney Registrations in Scotland
It is encouraging to see a rise in the number of Powers of Attorney being registered in Scotland. Almost 100,000 Powers of Attorney were registered in 2017 compared to around 70,000 in 2014.
There are many reasons why more Attorneys are being registered in Scotland. These include:
1) an ageing population in Scotland, with more people keen to put their affairs in order to make things easier.
2) improved awareness of the benefits of a Power of Attorney through several media campaigns.
3) People seeing how difficult it is to help a relative who has lost capacity in a situation where a Power of Attorney has not been granted. This often encourages people to put something in place for themselves.
4) Law firms offering a package deal for Will & Power of Attorney.
Shawn Wood, Solicitor at Watermans Legal Limited