Having an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) is as vital as making sure you have a Will. Whether you’re 18 or 80 years old, you never know when you may need to have a responsible person to make decisions on your behalf.
What is an EPA?
An EPA is a set of two legal documents, one for personal care and welfare, and the other for property. They appoint an attorney to act on your behalf to carry out your wishes at times when you may lack the mental capacity to do so yourself or, in the case of property matters, at your discretion. Lack of mental capacity can be caused by, for example, a brain injury, an accident, or a medical condition such as a stroke or Alzheimer’s.
It’s important that you appoint someone you trust, and who understands you, to be
your attorney. It can be difficult to talk about, but you should consult with your family about your EPAs so that everyone knows what to do if you become unwell and can’t manage your affairs by yourself.
Having an EPA allows you to appoint an attorney. You can give them some guidance as
to how they should act on your behalf. For example, you can:
- Set conditions or restrictions if you have particular things you want done or specific things you don’t want to happen, such as your express wishes around life support
- Ask your attorney to consult and keep other members of your family informed about things like your health situation or what the family thinks about selling your house. (Even if you don’t specifically direct your attorney to consult your wider family, your attorney may still choose to do so.)
- Ask them to continue to arrange Christmas and birthday gifts for your children and grandchildren, and
- Appoint a backup person in case your first attorney cannot continue for some reason.
Why do I need an EPA?
Having an EPA ensures you get to choose who you want to act on your behalf if you can’t do this yourself.
You can discuss your wishes with your attorney and your family before an EPA is ever needed, and you will have the peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out.
What if I don’t have an EPA?
Unfortunately many people don’t have EPAs and this can lead to a very difficult situation for your loved ones. Your family will need to apply to the Family Court for a welfare guardian and property manager to be appointed for you. This person will be chosen by the family and the court. The real issue is that you will not have the opportunity to set out any of your own wishes; you will be reliant on what other people think may be best for you.
The Family Court application can be lengthy, expensive and upsetting for your family at a time that may already be stressful as they try to make the best decisions for you without knowing what you might want.
Do it now
EPAs are something all of us need to set up now while we are in full health so that should something unforeseen occur your attorney is ready for any decision making. Please take the time to talk with us to have an EPA prepared for you.
Disclaimer: All the information published in Fineprint articles is true and accurate to the best of the author’s knowledge. It should not be substituted for legal advice. No liability is assumed by the authors or publisher for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on this newsletter. Views expressed are the views of the authors individually and do not necessarily reflect the view of this firm. Articles appearing in Fineprint may be reproduced with prior approval from the editor and credit being given to the source.
Copyright, NZ LAW Limited, 2016. Editor - Adrienne Olsen, e. firstname.lastname@example.org p. 029 286 3650