Everyone should have an enduring power of attorney, along with a will and in setting this up you will need to appoint people to act as your attorney to look after your affairs if you become unable to.
You need to consider very carefully who you will choose to be your attorney, as they will be responsible for following your wishes and making decisions. Deirdre McSorley, wills and probate solicitor with James McNulty & Co. outlines some of the things to think about when you decide who to trust with your enduring power of attorney.
What skills do they need?
If your attorneys need to step in to handle your finances and make decisions when you are unable to, you will want to ensure they are competent to do so. The skills required will depend on the complexity of your investments. Are there investment properties to manage, which require knowledge of the responsibilities of a landlord? If all your finances are online, they will need digital skills. Do you need someone confident and assertive to argue for particular Nursing Home arrangements?
Do they know your wishes?
A key issue to consider when choosing your attorneys is – do they know and understand your wishes. This could be your preferences concerning how your religious or ethical beliefs impact your decisions and personal preferences regarding lifestyle if in residential care.
Should I appoint a close relative?
It is common to appoint close family members as attorneys as they probably know you best, but this is not always ideal in practice. Your closest relatives may not always agree with you on all issues and they may not see eye to eye when a major decision needs to be made. You need to be sure they will make decisions in your best interests.
Age and health
If you are inclined to appoint your spouse or partner who is a similar age to you, or has their own health issues, you need to think particularly carefully. Unless they are a lot younger than you, will they be well enough to act as your attorney when the need arises?
Could I appoint a friend?
Your attorneys do not have to be family; you may prefer to appoint a close friend who knows and understands you better than any relative. A key issue to consider is whether you are confident you have known your friend long enough to trust them with making important decisions; would you have peace of mind if they were looking after your affairs?
Ideally, your attorneys should be local to you so that they can visit you easily to discuss issues and decisions for as long as you are able. They will also have easier access to your property etc.
There is the inherent risk that anyone you appoint may become ill, moves away or no longer wants to be your attorney. You can deal with these risks by nominating a replacement attorney who will have authority to act instead of another attorney. You will need to think just as carefully about issues such as location, age and health.
Can you trust them?
Whoever you choose, your attorney must have your absolute trust because they will have to follow your instructions and respect any preferences you include in the enduring lasting power of attorney. The law also requires your attorneys to help you make your own decisions as much as you are able to at the relevant time. You should think about whether your potential attorneys know you well enough to understand and empathise with your needs and wishes.
Do they want the responsibility?
You may think you have the perfect attorney in mind, but they may feel they will not have the time, skills or energy to commit to the role; or they may simply not want the responsibility. Do not forget to ask them first as they have to also sign the Enduring Power of Attorney when you make it.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.