Powers of Attorney Explained

A Power of Attorney gives another person the legal authority to act on your behalf, even if you have not lost mental capacity. On the other hand, an Enduring Power of Attorney is specifically designed so that another person can manage your affairs, should you become incapacitated in the future.
Two types of power of attorney

When you give someone power of attorney, it basically means that you (as the ‘donor’) are giving that person (the ‘attorney’) the authority to deal with your affairs. Without this legal mechanism, other people are not permitted to access your finances or make decisions on your behalf. Otherwise, anyone could contact your bank and request to withdraw funds. This would put everyone in a very vulnerable position. Not even your nearest and dearest have the legal right to manage your assets – unless, that is, you give them power of attorney.

In Ireland, there are two types of power of attorney. Confusingly, the first is simply called a Power of Attorney. The second is called an Enduring Power of Attorney. They are each designed for different circumstances.

Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is used when you want someone else to act on your behalf. You have not lost mental capacity. Rather, you simply cannot carry out the necessary tasks, perhaps because you are abroad, or you don’t feel confident in your abilities.

You can either have a general Power of Attorney. This means that your chosen Attorney can do almost everything that you yourself could do. This includes managing your property, business and financial affairs. Or, you can have a specific Power of Attorney. This means that your Attorney’s powers are restricted, as per your instructions. For instance, you might want your Attorney to complete the sale of your property but do nothing else.

A Power of Attorney comes into effect straightaway. It ends when you withdraw it. It will also end should you lose mental capacity or die.

Enduring Power of Attorney

An Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) is when you want someone else to manage your affairs, should you ever lose mental capacity in the future. This might happen due to illness, injury or old age.

An EPA is, therefore, a useful tool for end-of-life planning. It might never be needed. But if you do lose mental capacity, the necessary preparations have been made. This ensures that someone of your choosing can pick up the reins and make decisions on your behalf. This includes both financial and personal care decisions, such as where you live. Without an EPA, your assets will be frozen, unless they are jointly owned with someone who is still alive.

An Enduring Power of Attorney is made now, while you still have mental capacity. However, it only takes effect, if and when you lose capacity in the future. It ceases on your death.

Speak to a solicitor

Powers of attorney are powerful legal devices, not least because you are transferring a considerable amount of power to another person, be it your spouse, child, relative or friend. Because of this, we highly recommend that you seek legal advice before setting up a general or specific Power of Attorney. If you want to put an EPA in place, then you are legally required to involve a solicitor.

At Mullins & Treacy Solicitors, we can help you with all types of power of attorney, including Enduring Powers of Attorney. We can explain what they do in more detail and can guide you through the legal process. We are client focused and results driven.

Call us on 051 391 488 or email reception@mullinstreacy.ie for a free no obligation enquiry.

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