Don’t wait until it’s too late to arrange a power of attorney

Don’t wait until it’s too late to arrange a power of attorney

Dorothy Kellas, private client partner at full-service legal firm Gilson Gray

Every month we pay bills for insurance policies that we hope to never use. Even before heading off on holiday, we are prompted to consider the worst-case scenario and put protections in place. It is time to start thinking about powers of attorney in a similar vein – as a ‘just in case’ everyone should have.

Last year, more than 58,000 people registered a power of attorney – a formal document that enables a named individual to make decisions on another person’s behalf – with the Office of the Public Guardian Scotland. Although the figures have remained steady, this likely only covers a worryingly small proportion of the adult population; estimates suggest as little as 14%.

Low uptake is largely because many people still think of powers of attorney as a concern for the elderly. But, this is one of the most common and dangerous misconceptions about how they should be used: tragic, incapacitating accidents could happen to anyone, at any age, so it’s not an arrangement you should wait to make.

Even if you are young and feel like you have few assets to your name, when you scratch the surface, people at all stages of life often have more possessions than they think: from property and savings to pensions and death-in-service benefits. Without instructions, if something was to happen, nothing can be done quickly with these assets on your behalf and it can become a costly, complex, and lengthy process involving court applications and often the local authority’s social services.

Different factors may influence someone to instruct a lawyer to help them prepare and register a power of attorney. It may be that a difficult situation with your own parents has led you to consider what would happen with your own children, or you might be prompted by apocryphal tales about friends of friends who have had challenges within their families.

Any adult should think about it as soon as they begin working. The process of arranging the paperwork can be relatively straightforward – and is even simpler if you seek professional advice on the matter – and while solicitors’ fees will vary, the registration costs at the moment is just £83. It is even simpler when done at the same time as making a will.

For most people, the difficulty comes in choosing the person whom you’d trust to take important decisions on your behalf. This can be a tricky conversation, particularly if there are complex family dynamics, but it is important to have while you are able to do so. It may not necessarily be a once-in-a-lifetime discussion either, as powers of attorney may need to be updated if, for instance, a couple divorces or any named attorney dies.

It can be scary to think about losing our capacity to make decisions. Yet, what’s potentially more worrying is the upset that your family could go through if you do not have a power of attorney in place. Hopefully, it remains a safety net never needed – but it is, nonetheless, something we should all have.

For further information please contact Dorothy Kellas on 01620 897 174 /

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