In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to consider what would happen if we were no longer able to make or communicate our own decisions. However, this could happen if you’re in an accident that causes a severe brain injury or if you develop an illness that impairs your cognitive abilities (for example, dementia). Wills and estate planning law allows you to plan ahead by using a power of attorney (for financial and property decisions) and/or an enduring power of attorney (for medical and lifestyle decisions).
Who can be appointed as an attorney?
You can appoint an adult who you trust to take care of your best interests if something were to happen to you. Having a power of attorney is as important as having a valid will.
It’s possible to appoint one or more people to act as your attorney. You could choose:
- your spouse,
- family member(s), or
- trusted friend(s).
Ideally, it would be someone who is financially responsible. If you don’t have anyone in mind, you can appoint a trustee company or a public trustee.
What decisions can be made under power of attorney?
Your attorney may be responsible for making financial decisions on your behalf, such as paying your bills or managing your investments. They are required to act in your interests only and have to keep records of their decisions. Legal action can be taken if they abuse their position. A power of attorney allows you to limit or specify the powers you grant your attorney. If, at any time, you change your mind (and you are still able to consciously make a decision) you can revoke your power of attorney.
To appoint a power of attorney, you need to fill out certain forms. Each Australian state and territory has its own version.
You should also discuss your plan to make a power of attorney with a lawyer who can ensure that the power of attorney accurately reflects your wishes.