Enduring Power of Attorney
When people think of estate planning they usually think of the need for superannuation, life insurance and income protection but equally important is the need for a Will and an Enduring Power of Attorney. I have spoken at length over the last month about the need for a Will now I wish to turn to the equally important aspect of having an Enduring Power of Attorney.
What is an Enduring Power of Attorney?
It is a document given by one person (the Donor) to another person (the Attorney) which enables the Attorney to act on behalf of the Donor and to do all things which the Donor could himself do. The Attorney in effect steps into the shoes of the Donor and can sign documents, access bank accounts etc.
Why do I need one?
Everybody should have an Enduring Power of Attorney appointing either their spouse, relative or close friend to act on their behalf in the event that they are either absent or mentally incapable of handling their affairs eg. if you are out of town and need documents signed or access to monies or something to be done on your behalf which only an authorised person can do for you.
But the real benefit of an Enduring Power of Attorney is that the power to act on your behalf continues after you become mentally or physically incapable of doing things on your own behalf. For example, we have had cases where the husband and wife may, for tax purposes, have an investment property, shares or money invested in one persons name only. That person has suffered a stroke, heart attack or been in a motor car accident such that they are either physically or mentally incapable of handling their own affairs. The spouse may need to sell some of the assets or access some of the money in order to provide ongoing medical care for the injured party but because they don’t have an Enduring Power of Attorney that cannot easily be done. Instead, a Government appointed Trustee is nominated and as you can imagine, the process becomes very expensive and bogged down with red tape. That could all have been avoided by the making of an Enduring Power of Attorney.
Who should have one?
The simple answer is: Everybody! Spouses should each have one appointing the other their Attorney, the same applies for people in defacto relationships. But also think of the need for the elderly to appoint a child or children Attorney for them and also single children appointing a parent or parents as their Attorney.
It is especially important for adult children to think about their parents as they get older. By having an Enduring Power of Attorney a son or daughter can help their parents as they get on in life with accessing bank accounts, handling documents etc and in the event of mum or dad suffering a stroke or heart attack being able to handle their affairs.
For example, we had a case where an elderly woman suffered a stroke and was physically and mentally incapable of handling her affairs. The family home was in her name only and the children had to place her in a nursing home. The problem was that the home had to be maintained, the rates and insurance paid as well as meeting the costs of nursing care. There was no Enduring Power of Attorney. If there had been, the children could have sold the family home, placed the proceeds on trust for mum and met her ongoing care from the sale proceeds.
So think about it, if you have parents (it doesn’t matter how old they are now) seriously consider the benefit to them and you of having an Enduring Power of Attorney so that one day you will not face the same problems as the family mentioned above.
Prefer the video format? Our principal, John McLaughlin, provides an informative Law Talk episode about the Enduring Powers of Attorney