Its important to know the options available to you, such as a power of attorney or guardianship, and your rights if you are unavailable to manage your affairs or incapable of making decisions.
Power of attorney
If you are getting to the later stages of your life, or you experience an event like a fall or illness that means you feel that you are longer able to manage your own affairs, you can appoint someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf by giving them power of attorney over your affairs.
Under Australian law, giving someone person power of attorney will allow them to manage your affairs when you prefer not to do so yourself, or you are no longer able to. This might include making decisions about:
- your finances and legal affairs
- your lifestyle including where you live, and
- what kind of medical, dental or health treatment you receive.
You can choose to appoint someone now but not have it enforced until you need it. This means that the document is prepared and signed but does not become active until further advice is given. You can give your GP responsibility of activating it, should illness or disability prevent you doing so yourself. In this instance your doctor would contact your appointed attorney.
If you have not already formally appointed someone to have power of attorney, and something happens that makes it necessary and you are unable to appoint someone yourself, a guardianship board or tribunal can appoint a guardian for you on your behalf. This can be a family member, a relative or a close friend who can make decisions for you.
There are lots of different factors that the guardianship board or tribunal will consider before making this important decision on your behalf such as:
- Your ability to manage your own affairs.
- Any relevant medical or health conditions you have that may affect your ability to make decisions, like dementia or mental illness.
- Whether or not appointing a guardian is in your best interests.
Each state and territory has its own laws and regulations regarding powers of attorney and guardianship, so it is best to contact a lawyer for legal advice or the relevant authority in your state or territory for information on laws for where you live.