Becoming incapable of dealing with your own financial affairs or making decisions regarding your personal welfare can happen to anyone, at any time. Everyone knows someone (or of someone) unable to deal with these matters either through disability, illness, accident or age.
So now you are thinking, “OK, so Power of Attorney is for when you are old or incapable of making decisions for yourself.” Absolutely not; the correct time to address who you would want to look after your personal affairs is while you are fit and able to make that decision.
While this applies across the board, sporty people are at slightly higher risk of receiving an injury significant enough to require either temporary or permanent handling of their affairs by another person.
The risk gets higher the rougher the sport you play. Some common “risky” sports would be all the winter sports (even curling – that ice is slippy), American football, boxing, MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and, of course, rugby – all the force of American football with none of the protective equipment.
The nation held its collective breath when Thom Evans took THAT knock in the Six Nations against Wales in February 2010 and although forced to retire from rugby, Evans has recovered enough to take part in Strictly Come Dancing and is regularly seen on TV. Had the outcome been different, it is entirely possible that Evans, then only 24, wouldn’t have had the required paperwork in place for someone to look after his affairs.
Despite a long and illustrious career in motor sport, it was his love of skiing which has left Michael Schumacher’s family to find themselves in a position where he is reportedly unable to deal with his own affairs. Given his profession, it is more than likely he had everything in order for such an eventuality but if that happened to you, would you have had it covered?
So, what’s a Power of Attorney and why should you get one? It’s a document that passes control of your financial affairs, personal welfare or both, to those you nominate in the event that you are no longer able to do these things for yourself. You can select the specific powers you wish to grant or keep it broad to ensure that if the time ever comes, your Attorney would not be restricted in their actions.
Without a Power of Attorney, someone who becomes incapacitated cannot immediately have their affairs dealt with by someone else. Family, friends or, sometimes, the local authority must go through the Court process of applying for Guardianship. This can be a long, frustrating process and if not done carefully, can end up with the Guardian not being granted all the powers they require. This leads to further Court applications, more legal costs and time delays. The conditions placed upon a Guardian are incredibly restrictive and can be off-putting to those hoping to do the right thing and step up to the plate.
From a personal point of view, would you be happy for someone else to select who makes decisions regarding your money, where you live, how you dress and who you can associate with? I know I wouldn’t.
In a nutshell, Powers of Attorney are for everyone. For the hardcore sports enthusiast who just might come a cropper, for the Saturday night dance diva who may fall over on a slippy dance floor or the foodie who could choke on a stuffed olive at their local Continental food fair.
Young or old, sporty or not, if you are capable of making the decision on who might govern your future, don’t put it off. Just get it done.
Amy McKay is an associate in the Private Client team at Balfour+Manson