According to Edinburgh law firm Gibson Kerr, for many people planning for the future means having a will in place, which they think fully protects their family should the worst happen.
But many miss out on the equally vital legal protection of a power of attorney, which will help if they or a loved one is left unable to speak for themselves or make decisions.
What is a power of attorney?
Granting a power of attorney means you take the decision to appoint someone else to act on your behalf if you are no longer capable of doing so. That takes away much of the uncertainty should something unforeseen happen.
It’s always better to put this in place before you need it. This means that if you ever become incapacitated – whether through age, illness or injury – your chosen person can step in straight away.
According to Lindsay Maclean of Gibson Kerr, these kind of situations – although thankfully rare – can happen to anyone at any time of their lives.
“Planning ahead can mean reassurance that someone you trust is responsible for decisions about you and your lifestyle. It’s not something we like to think about, let alone talk about, but it could be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
“Appointing power of attorney can help make tough decisions easier at a difficult time for your family and can avoid family arguments and disputes,” Lindsay Maclean added.
The most common reason why people haven’t considered appointing power of attorney is that they’re not old or ill. While power of attorney is most often needed when you are elderly or suffering from an illness, the earlier you set it up, the sooner you will have peace of mind that your future is in safe hands, whatever might occur.
People lose capacity in many ways. It could be through a diminishing illness like dementia or it could be sudden, for example through an accident or a stroke.
Everyone wants the freedom to make their own choices and decisions throughout their lives and appointing a power of attorney does not take that freedom away. In fact it helps ensure that decisions are being made by someone you have appointed, should that be needed.
The costly alternative
Without a power of attorney the only way to achieve this would be through an application for a guardianship order. This takes all the decision making away from you. You would have no choice in who was appointed or what powers they might have; the decisions are made by the court. The process to apply for guardianship can be time consuming and expensive.
The right to make independent decisions is important at any age, and especially as we get older; we don’t want to feel this is being taken away from us.
The first step is arranging an appointment with a solicitor. They can talk you through the process, answer any questions you have and then take your instructions and provide you with further information and guidance, if needed.
Who can help?
Gibson Kerr, personal law solicitors, have been helping and advising families on personal law in Scotland for over 100 years. It is a small family-run firm and its clients’ satisfaction is paramount. If you have any questions about power of attorney, will planning or any other personal law matter, get in touch and the team will be happy to talk to you.