A Power of Attorney is a legal document giving someone else the authority to take actions or make decisions on your behalf. It enables you to choose a person/ or people (called an attorney) to deal with your property, money, and other affairs.
Who can be a Power of Attorney?
The appointed person is known as the ‘attorney’ and the person giving someone Power of Attorney is also known as the ‘donor’. Anyone with mental capacity, aged 18 years or older and not bankrupt when signing the power of attorney, can be an attorney in Northern Ireland. This includes a wife, husband, civil partner, partner, friend, family member, or a professional, such as a solicitor.
This can be a very important decision in someone’s life, so it is recommended to get advice from a solicitor beforehand.
What can a Power of Attorney help you with?
An attorney has the power to make decisions on behalf of the donor. They must:
- support the donor or client to make their own decisions
- make any decisions in the donor’s best interests
- consider the donor’s wishes and feelings.
This can be in temporary situations, for example, if you are in the hospital and require help with everyday tasks such as paying bills. Longer-term situations also apply, for example, you want to plan for the unexpected or have been diagnosed with a long-term condition which may result in the loss of mental capacity to make your own decisions down the line.
Types of power of attorney
In Northern Ireland, the two types of Power of Attorney that are available are an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) and a General Power of Attorney (GPA).
- Enduring – this is an ongoing arrangement with no expiry date. It will allow the person/people you choose to make decisions about property and finance on your behalf. It can continue if you lose mental capacity.
- General – this is also known as an ordinary power of attorney. This is for when you only need help temporarily. If you lose mental capacity, it’s no longer valid.
Be aware- Unlike other parts of the UK, in Northern Ireland, you can’t give another person the legal power to make decisions about your health and welfare.
What if your loved one lacks mental capacity?
If your loved one is no longer able to make their own decisions, it’s too late to apply for an Enduring Power of Attorney. In this situation, you’ll need to make an application for a ‘Controllership Order’ to the Office of Care and Protection. A partner, family member, friend or a professional, such as a solicitor, or someone from the person’s local authority social work department can apply.
If successful, the Master of the Court can authorise the Controller to do anything that appears necessary or expedient concerning the property and affairs of the person lacking capacity. This could include the transfer and investment of money, paying bills, the sale or purchase of property and/or making gifts or wills, or the carrying on of a business.
Persons appointed under such orders must report regularly and are monitored by the appropriate authority about actions and decisions taken in respect of your property and affairs.
How to make a Power of Attorney in Northern Ireland
You can set up a Power of Attorney in Northern Ireland through a solicitor. Attorneys are required to give notice to a minimum of three of the donor’s relatives. If the attorney is a notifiable relative, they can be counted as having been notified.
To set this up relatives must be notified in the following priority:
- The donor’s spouse
- The donor’s children
- The donor’s parents
- The donor’s brothers and sisters, whether of the whole or half blood
- The widow or widower of a child of the donor
- The donor’s grandchildren
- The children of the donor’s brothers and sisters of the whole blood
- The children of the donor’s brothers and sisters of the half blood
- The donor’s uncles and aunts of the whole blood
- The children of the donor’s uncles and aunts of the whole blood
It is important to set up a Power of Attorney before something happens because life can be uncertain, and you never know when something like an accident or stroke might happen. If you want to talk to someone about whether you should set one up, contact a solicitor at McPartland & Sons for general guidance.