General power of attorney
A general power of attorney is where you appoint someone to make financial and legal decisions for you, usually for a specified period of time. An example might be if you’re overseas and unable to manage your legal affairs at home.
A general power of attorney does not give an agent the power to make personal, medical or lifestyle decisions on the principal’s behalf. In addition to this, an agent’s appointment becomes invalid if the principal loses the capacity to make their own decisions. That is, the powers granted cease as soon as the principal is deemed mentally incompetent.
Enduring power of attorney
If an enduring power of attorney is signed, agents can be called upon to make decisions for the principal in a situation where the agent does not have the mental capacity to attend to their own affairs, i.e. if an agent is unable to understand and give legal consent to an action or arrangement.
Financial and legal authority
An enduring power of attorney authorises your agent to make financial and legal decisions for you while you are alive but only if you are unable to make these decisions. For example, if you become mentally incapacitated or temporarily unconscious due to a brain injury, accident or illness. In Victoria, the financial power of attorney allows the appointed agent can make financial and legal decisions on the principal’s behalf.
Depending on the State/ Territory of residence, medical authority may or may not be included within an enduring power of attorney. In States that do not permit medical authority to be granted via enduring powers of attorney, a separate document that specifically permits the delegation of medical power is required.
When should I organise my powers of attorney?
You should prepare your enduring powers of attorney when you are healthy, aware and in control. By planning ahead of time, you know you can rely on having an attorney in place to step in and help you manage your affairs according to your wishes when you need it most. Similarly, it may be much harder to put an appointment of supportive attorney in place if you are no longer at your best, either physically or mentally.
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