Understanding Power of Attorney

Date: Jun 19, 2013

There may come a time when you are unable to make financial decisions for yourself. This is where a document known as a "Power of Attorney" can help.

Power of Attorney enables a person to make decisions about your finances on your behalf. This person would usually be a trusted friend or relative who is aged 18 years or older.

It clearly states what the nominated person (known as the "attorney") is allowed to do for you, and can be as general or specific as you like.

Any decision the person makes using Power of Attorney is legally binding, so it is absolutely vital that you completely trust the attorney you appoint.

It is a good idea to talk to your close friends and relatives about your wishes and involve them in every stage of the estate planning process.

This way, when you've chosen an attorney, you will both feel certain that any decisions they make will be in keeping with your wishes.

There are a few different types of power that can be appointed, including General Power of Attorney and Enduring Power of Attorney.

The General Power of Attorney allows a person to make both legal and financial decisions on your behalf. They are only able to do so for a certain period of time, such as when you are ill or travelling overseas.

According to the Law Society of New South Wales, the General Power of Attorney ceases to operate "if you lose the ability to make decisions or when you die".

That's where the Enduring Power of Attorney comes in.

This enables a person to permanently make financial and legal decisions on your behalf, even when you've completely (as opposed to just temporarily) lost the ability to do so.

Such a document must be signed when you are of sound mind, and your signature needs to be witnessed by someone other than the nominated attorney. This witness must also fill out a certificate that proves they believe you are capable of making such a decision.

The experienced team of family lawyers at Craddock Murray Neumann can give you expert advice on how a Power of Attorney might help you organise your personal and financial affairs in the event that you cannot manage these yourself.

We can also give you advice on the documents required to appoint a Power of Attorney and help you to prepare these.