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What to consider when appointing an attorney

Becoming incapable of dealing with your own financial and welfare affairs can happen to anyone, at any time. Therefore, we recommend that our clients put a power of attorney in place as early as possible. A power of attorney is a document which allows an individual(s) to manage your financial affairs and personal welfare if you give permission (financial only) or become incapable of acting.

When we describe a power of attorney to our clients, we like to compare it to an insurance policy: it gives individual(s) the legal authority to speak on your behalf if you are unable to do so. The hope is that your attorney does not need to use their powers, but you and your loved ones can have peace of mind that there is a safety net in place in case you become unable to manage your own affairs.

So, what should you consider when appointing an attorney?

Thinking about who to appoint

Before granting a power of attorney, your solicitor will have a discussion with you to help you decide who is best placed to take on the responsibility that the role entails. You should think carefully about who you would trust to make decisions on your behalf. You may wish to consider appointing more than one attorney, say for example, in the event that one dies or becomes incapable of acting or to assist them with making decisions and the administration of your affairs? It can seem like a huge responsibility to make decisions on someone else’s behalf.

Your solicitor will need to obtain the consent of the attorney you decide to appoint. You should have open and honest discussions with your attorney so that they are aware of your wishes and understand the decisions you would like them to make on your behalf.

Deciding what powers to grant

The powers that you grant your attorney is up to you. None of us have a crystal ball and we do not know what the future holds so we advise that granting a wide range of powers gives your attorney flexibility. However, if it more accurately reflects your wishes, you can restrict the powers that you grant your attorney.

The time is now

You can only put a power of attorney in place if you have capacity to do so. In Scotland, powers of attorney must be signed in the presence of a solicitor or doctor. This is to certify that you have full capacity, that you understand the nature and the effect of the document that you are signing, and also that nobody is pressurising you into doing so.

It is a common misconception that appointing an attorney is something that you should only consider doing once you are old or unwell. This is not the case. You should determine who you would trust to look after your personal affairs whilst you are fit and able to make that decision.

Should you wish to arrange a meeting with a solicitor to discuss granting a power of attorney, please contact our reception on 0131 200 1200 and ask to speak to a member of the private client team.