Real Life - Being a Power of Attorney

July 14, 2022
minute read

Understanding the role you have as a power of attorney will help you decide who you would want in the role and if you have been asked to be one whether you are prepared to take it on. 

I have personal experience of being a power of attorney (POA) for my aunt who suffered a stroke in 2016 and consequently could no longer speak, walk or use her right hand. For the first 3 years her partner was power of attorney and then he died after a short illness with leukaemia.

On the original documents I was named as a secondary attorney, however as the document was pre-2019 it was required to be stamped by the Office of public guardian,  to show the change of attorney from my uncle to me.  This stamp took over 4 months to receive back and only then did I have the ability to access bank accounts. 

Do not underestimate the time involved in dealing with another's affairs

The administration side is time consuming, more of these things can be done online now, but at the time many hours were spent at banks verifying who I was and setting up new accounts. This initial set up is hard, I would like to assume that if it was a partner it would be an easier process. 

As my uncle’s death was relatively sudden, he had some documentation but not all and therefore this meant going through paperwork for days, many of which was not filed away, read up on what documentation you should have.

Make it easier by documenting accounts and wishes

The financial side of things was easier though than the organising everyday care and activities. We knew she did not want to be in a home and therefore every effort was made to avoid that.  That meant there were far more practical decisions to be made; like getting dog walkers scheduled in, trips to the physio and day to day maintenance of the house all things her partner had done before he died. Although technically this is not necessarily the remit of a POA, you are the only one who can authorise spending on their behalf. 

Choose someone physically close to you, even though you can do many things online, face to face contact is can also be needed.

I lived over 5 hours away from my aunt and this also presented difficulties, trying to interview carers and dog walkers, not being on hand for issues in the house and with medical professionals. 

Again this would be very different if you were doing this for a partner but do not underestimate the organisation involved and as a partner the emotional toll you will be going through. 

At the beginning the role took most of my week and I needed to give up a job because of it. Now 3 years on, this has reduced to a couple of hours a week. Mainly by having spread out the amount of work within the family, one of my uncles looks after the maintenance of her house and day to day concerns.

Questions to consider when appointing a power of attorney:
  1. Do they have the time and inclination?
  2. Would they know what accounts you have?
  3. Do they live close to you and could handle practical arrangement?
  4. Do they know your wishes on care and treatment?
  5. Do they have the organisational and technology skills to be able to do the role?


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