In this Sunday’s papers Dr Ciara Kelly of Operation Transformation fame encouraged all to consider choosing a Power of Attorney “in case the worst happens”.

None of us really want to think about what would happen if we were incapacitated by illness, accident or age but the reality is that we are all living longer than previous generations and whilst this is to be seen as a positive there can be associated problems.

Signing an Enduring Power of Attorney when we are in the fullness of our mental capacity can save our loved ones and ourselves from a lot of worry and potential financial and legal difficulties.

An Enduring Power of Attorney is signed by the Donor when he/she is in good mental health and appoints an Attorney (a trusted person who can be a member of the Donor’s family but does nothave to be related).

In the case of an Enduring Power of Attorney, nothing will change until or unless the Donor becomes mentally incapacitated and this will have to be certified by a doctor. If the Donor goes on to live a long and healthy life and retains their mental faculties they will continue manage all their affairs without any influence or involvement of the Attorney.

However, if the Donor becomes incapacitated to the extent that he/she is no longer capable of managing their affairs, the Power of Attorney is registered and the Attorney can step in and manage the affairs of the Donor including making personal decisions regarding their care. The Attorney can access funds, sell property and ensure that the Donor is looked after. The Attorney must always act in the Donor’s best interests. As this involves transferring considerable powers to the Attorney there are a number of legal safeguards in place to prevent the abuse of a vulnerable person.

If someone becomes mentally incapacitated and has not previously singed an Enduring Power of Attorney, it may become necessary to have them made A Ward of Court in order to ensure that their money can be accessed to look after them. This is a much more expensive and invasive option for the family.

An Enduring Power of Attorney can be signed long before there are any concerns about a persons mental capacity and will not take effect unless incapacity occurs. The Donor can revoke the document at any time up to the time when it takes effect ( ie. When the Donor no longer has mental capacity to manage their affairs.)

We at Lanigan Clarke Solicitors can advise you about the benefits of signing an Enduring Power of Attorney and explain the process involved.