Enduring Power of Attorney means you give someone you trust the ability to make decisions for you if you can’t.
You might decide to do this if you have been injured, or you have an illness or a learning disability.
You don’t have to make an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) if you don’t want to. You have the right to make decisions about your life, including whether to assign someone the ability to make decisions for you. If you do decide to make an EPA, you get to decide who that person is. You can also change your mind later if you want.
While you don’t have to make an EPA, it might be a good idea to, depending on your situation. If you don’t make an EPA and you lose the ability to make decisions for yourself, people close to you will need to go through the court to make decisions for you or appoint someone who can.
Who needs an EPA?
An EPA can be useful for anyone, whether you have an illness or a disability or not. It can give you peace of mind to know that if you become unable to make decisions, someone you trust will make them for you.
The most common reason why you need an EPA is if you have an illness or injury that has left you, or will leave you, unable to make decisions about your life. Here are some examples of scenarios when an EPA could be helpful:
- if you receive a head injury and you are in a coma for an extended period
- if you’re a young person with an intellectual disability and you will soon be turning 18
- if you have an age-related illness like dementia of Alzheimer’s
These are just examples, and your situation will be unique.
An EPA is different from a will. A will specifies what happens to your belongings and responsibilities after you die. For example, if you own property, a will explains what happens to that property. An EPA only deals with decisions about your life, and it ends when you die. It doesn’t explain what happens to any of your belongings or responsibilities after that.
Who can be your attorney?
The person who is designated to make decisions for you is your attorney. Your attorney can be anyone you trust, such as a family member or friend. They can also be an organisation. For example, Public Trust can act as an attorney for property EPAs.
Your attorney must be over 20 and be mentally capable themselves.
Types of EPA
There are two types of EPAs: one is for decisions about your personal life, and the other is about property and money.
EPA for personal care and welfare
A personal care and welfare EPA is when you appoint someone to make decisions about your personal life. These could be decisions about your welfare, where you live, and care arrangements. For example, your attorney could decide whether you have a medical procedure that’s been recommended by a doctor.
EPA for property
An EPA for property is when you appoint someone or an organisation to take care of your finances or property. This could include things like paying bills, managing investments or managing rental properties.
How an EPA works
When you make an EPA, it comes into effect either when you choose, or when a medical professional decides that you can no longer make decisions.
You can decide which aspects of your life your attorney has power over. For example, you may allow them to make decisions about your medical care, but not your finances.
Your attorney can’t make decisions about things like marriage, divorce, adoption, or refusing life-saving medical treatment.
Even when you make an EPA, your attorney still has to involve you in decisions as much as you’re able. They are legally obliged to make decisions that are in your best interests. You can specify in your EPA that your attorney should consult with certain people before decisions are made.
How to get an EPA
To get an EPA, you will need to go through a lawyer or trustee corporation to arrange it. There are some forms that need to be filled out, which are available on the Ministry of Justice’s website.
How to change an EPA
You can change or end your EPA if you are capable of making that decision. If there are concerns about your attorney or the decisions they are making on your behalf, the Family Court can step in to help.
Your attorney will lose their power to make decisions for you if they become bankrupt, are subject to a personal or property court order, or become mentally incapable.
An EPA is an important agreement that ensures good decisions are made on your behalf. It can give your peace of mind to know that if you can’t make decisions for yourself, someone will make them in your best interest. Even if you don’t need an EPA yet, it’s a good idea to set one up so you’re prepared if you become unable to make decisions later.
Last updated on Tuesday, 16 August 2022