Lucy: Hello I am Lucy from the BDA Scotland. I’m back! Today’s topic is ‘Power of Attorney’. I have asked Avril to come along today to ask her questions about this and she will respond based on her experience. Thank you for coming Avril.
Avril: Thank you. My name is Avril Hepner I am also from the BDA Scotland.
Lucy: Welcome. If you don’t mind can you give me some information about POA (Power of Attorney) as I am not clear at the moment?
Avril: P.O.A stands for ‘Power of Attorney’ and it is very important. Really important! Everyone should know about this. You should have one. It is about who is able to make decisions for the future, decides on what care will be given or can help. There are 2 elements of a P.O.A. The first one for example is if you know someone has dementia you have to think about who will support with finances or with their owned property. Who will make the decisions for that person? Who will deal with their welfare? A P.O.A will deal with things such as their health and medical decisions in the future or be involved in their care plan. It can be a variety of things. The second element is that you could be an “Appointed” P.O.A. So an example would be that someone with dementia could have this in place if they were having trouble accessing their own bank as there were experiencing a lot of confusion so the appointed P.O.A would be able to support with this. The P.O.A would be responsible for ensuring that they have financial security.
Lucy: I understand this now.
Avril: Another role of the P.O.A would be dealing with their ‘Health Welfare’. If you were ill or unwell you would attend the hospital and there they may decide to have an operation or another form of treatment. As a P.O.A you would be able to make the best decision for them in that situation. It is important that the appointed P.O.A is someone that they trust, and that you know a lot about each other and that they feel you are the best person. It could be that the P.O.A is responsible for finances, their property and/or their welfare. You can appoint more than one P.O.A there could be 2, 3 or even more if you wish. The reason that there can be more than one appointed P.O.A is that perhaps the appointed P.O.A dies before. It is better having more than 2 or 3 so that if the first appointee is not available that the role can get passed onto the second or third person. This was something that a lawyer had advised me on which was something I had not considered. I am thinking back to the time with my father and I was an only child and I thought I would be the only P.O.A and it was explained to me that if I died before my father he should have a second or third P.O.A in place in case. As a P.O.A you could have the responsibility for one or both combined. So you could take responsibility of finances and the other appointee dealing with wellbeing. This is important as you will know that someone else will be responsible for taking care of you if you need it. It is better that way rather than panicking you will know that somebody is there to make decisions for you. It is good to have this in place but you may never need it. You get a P.O.A by attending a lawyer’s surgery and requesting it. You must bring in an interpreter and discuss everything and agree it. When this is agreed often a lawyer will bring in a second lawyer to act as a witness. Say for example you notice that someone has dementia but that it has not taken full effect at that point you could hold your meeting; discuss it and your lawyer who would then bring along a second lawyer to confirm that they are happy that you are not forcing someone to make a decision against their wishes. They want to make sure that they have the capabilities of making decisions and that all the paperwork is done and signed and that they are satisfied. You are possibly waiting 4-6 weeks for the documentation. You will receive a certificate which you then need to file. If then the person who you are appointed P.O.A of is unwell you can provide your certificate to prove that you are able to make decisions of their behalf. This is helpful as there is a lot less hassle.
Lucy: When you officially became a P.O.A did you feel like the plans and strategies were then on in much smoother? Was the run up sorting out the paper work and things a bit complicated and difficult?
Avril: I wouldn’t say that it was complicated. If you have a good interpreter and a good lawyer it shouldn’t be. You need a good lawyer who explains everything and allows the time to read all the information. The paperwork is not easy but the lawyer deals with that. The difficult decision is deciding who will be the P.O.A. Also it is worth mentioning that when you have decided who you want to be your appointed P.O.A that you inform them and ensure that they are happy carrying on this role. They have to accept responsibility for this role. You also then need to give the appointees details such as address to the lawyer to file away. If say, the P.O.A moves address they would need to inform of the changes. The process is smooth but the waiting time can be stressful and take around 6 weeks. It is a relief and you feel better once this process has been completed. I have 2 appointed P.O.A’s myself and I have comfort in knowing that if something happened to me that someone would be there to look after me and make sure that everything is sorted such as my house, hospital appointments and respecting my wishes. Its peace of mind.
Lucy: I am just curious when making a decision about who you want as your P.O.A, does it need to be somebody who is in your family? Or is it an outside person? If so, would could it be?
Avril: It could be anybody. It does not have to be a family member. It could be a friend. It should be somebody whom you trust and knows you well. It could be family, close friends or it could be a neighbour if you wish. It can be anybody.
Lucy: What about a doctor? Solicitor?
Avril: Yes, if you are alone.
Lucy: So if you do not have any family.
Avril: Yes exactly. It could be a social worker. It could be a range of people who you have a strong relationship with. P.O.A is not something that is fixed either. You could change your mind and decide to swap P.O.A to somebody else if you fall out with that person or you simply do not see them that often. Life changes so these things can happen and perhaps you are no longer talking to a member of your family that you had originally appointed as your P.O.A.
Lucy: Is there a cost involved with appointing a P.O.A?
Avril: Yes you have to pay.
Lucy: Does it vary depending on who you go with?
Avril: No you have fixed price to be a Public Guardian. To pay for that and gain the certificate it can be expensive. You are paying for both the certificate and the lawyer’s time. It also depends on the pack of information. It is not a free service.
Lucy: You pay for the lawyer and also the public guardian certificate is that right?
Lucy: How does an interpreter fit into this?
Avril: I was lucky that I had a good lawyer and through discussion I was able to explain our requirements of an interpreter. It is possible that the pack will have an additional cost in order to provide an interpreter. Sometimes the lawyers take responsibility and pay for the interpreter so it would be free for us. Before you start engaging with a lawyer it would be good to take about this and get it decided.
Lucy: Are you able to go to various lawyers and pick the one that you prefer? Is that allowed?
Lucy: You are able to research and pick the one you prefer?
Avril: Yes or it could be that someone has recommended a particular lawyer. For me it was a recommendation I got from family which was useful. I got on well with this lawyer as did my family so I set up an open meeting for the Deaf community back when I was an advocacy worker to explain this as many did not know what it meant. There were over 20 Deaf participants who signed up to P.O.A and dealt with their will and various other things to keep them safe.
Lucy: That is really positive.
Avril: It is really useful. I would encourage people to look into P.O.A and seriously consider it. It is really important, more so that a will. A will is more of a wish list i.e. who you want to give your house to or your ring or watch. A P.O.A is about finances and welfare decisions which is so important.
Lucy: Thank you for explaining all of this. I am thinking I am best setting up a P.O.A for myself. It is really useful information. Thank you again.
Avril: Thank you
Lucy: If there is any problems or confusion, please contact me, email or skype, to share information. If you know a good lawyer, share with us. Thank you for watching, hope this is useful.
Avril and Lucy from BDA Scotland chat about Power of Attorney (P.O.A); What is it? When should you consider it? How do I go about setting it up?
Watch the video above for more information or click the transcript box below the video for an English text version.
For more information on Dementia, head over to our dedicated page at bda.org.uk/dementia