Setting up Power of Attorney

This guidance is applicable to England and Wales only.

As uncomfortable as it can be, it’s important to think about what would happen if you couldn’t make your own decisions in the future. By putting plans in place now, you can let your loved ones know your wishes before this happens.

What is a power of attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to name one or more people (known as your attorneys) to make decisions for you, or act on your behalf, if you’re no longer able to or no longer want to make your own decisions.

A power of attorney can be used for a short period, for example, if you're in hospital and need help with everyday tasks such as paying bills. It can also be used for longer periods, for example, if you lose the mental capacity to make your own decisions.

There are different types of power of attorney and you can set up more than one.

Lasting power of attorney (LPA) – covers decisions about your financial affairs, or your health and care. It applies if you lose mental capacity, or if you no longer want to make decisions for yourself. You would set up an LPA if you want to make sure you're covered in the future. LPAs were introduced in October 2007, and replaced Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPAs) at that time. However, EPAs created before 1 October 2007 should still be valid.

Ordinary power of attorney – covers decisions about your financial affairs only, and is valid while you have mental capacity. It is suitable if you need cover for a temporary period (hospital stay or holiday) or you want someone to act for you (for example, if you find it hard to get to the bank yourself).

Visit the Office of the Public Guardian for more information about the different types of power of attorney you can set up.

Why should I set up a power of attorney?

A power of attorney gives your attorneys the authority to step in if you are unable to make your own decisions in future. But it also lets you express your wishes when it comes to things like medical treatment and end of life care. This can help to reduce the stress your loved ones will face when making decisions on your behalf, as well as ensuring your wishes are considered, when you’re no longer able to express them.

Without a power of attorney, your loved ones will not be unable to step in and make decisions for you when they need to. This is true even if you’re married or in a civil partnership. Without a power of attorney, your spouse does not have the authority to deal with your finances or make decisions about your medical treatment if you lose the ability to do so.

Obtaining permission from the Court of Protection to act on behalf of someone who has lost the mental capacity to make their own decisions is complicated, time consuming and costly. By putting a power of attorney in place in advance, your attorneys will be able to act on your behalf when the time comes, without the added stress of going to the Court of Protection.

What is mental capacity?

Mental capacity means the ability to make or communicate specific decisions at the time they need to be made. To have mental capacity you must understand the decision you need to make, why you need to make it, and the likely outcome of your decision.

Where someone is having difficulty communicating a decision, an attempt should always be made to overcome those difficulties and help the person decide for themselves. You can access more information about how to assess mental capacity at GOV.UK.

How do I set up Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)?

You can set up an LPA yourself. Simply contact the Office of the Public Guardian for an information pack and the forms you need. Alternatively, you can download the forms or fill them out online via the Office of the Public Guardian website.

You’ll need to decide who to appoint as an attorney. Making decisions on behalf of someone else can be difficult, so think carefully about who to appoint, and talk to them about it before you go ahead.

You do not need a solicitor to set up an LPA, but you may want to seek professional advice if you don’t feel confident in completing the documents on your own, or if your personal circumstances are complex.

As with all legal documents, your LPA will need to be signed by all named parties (you and the attorneys) and witnessed by someone independent.

The LPA must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before it can be used. There's a fee of £82 to register your LPA. If you’re on a low income or in receipt of certain benefits you may be able to obtain a reduction in or exemption from this fee. For more information please visit the Office of the Public Guardian.

You must register your LPA while you still have the mental capacity and it can’t be used during the registration process which takes about 9 weeks. If you lose mental capacity but signed the LPA while you still had mental capacity, your attorney can register it for you.

If you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland, you can find out more about setting up Power of Attorney by using the links below.