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The main differences between Power of Attorney and a Will

A Power of Attorney (“PoA”) is a formal document in which you give authority to someone such as a family member or close friend to make decisions for you (typically financial matters and ‘welfare’ matters such as medical treatment and long-term care during your lifetime), if you become incapable of looking after your own affairs.

A PoA only comes into effect if its own conditions are met (principally that a suitably-qualified doctor certifies that you are incapable of managing your own affairs). There are detailed regulations giving substantial protection to the granter of a PoA, overseen by the Office of the Public Guardian.

Granting PoA’s is increasingly common. Without one there will be difficulties for your family and friends in trying to assist you, should the need arise. Someone would have to apply to court asking to be appointed your legal guardian, involving considerable delay and expense. Until the application was granted, limited assistance would be available from institutions such as banks, hospitals and care homes because you would be unable to give instructions, and no-one would have authority on your behalf.

Wills instead only operate on death, appoint Executors to carry out your wishes and set out how your Estate is to be distributed. They can also make specific bequests and appoint Guardians to look after young children.  Failure to set up a Will can result in difficulties for your family and may result in more Inheritance Tax being paid than is necessary. In addition, the absence of a will can cause confusion, give rights to certain family members and frustrate your intentions regarding money and distribution of your estate.

Solicitors will recommend PoA’s and wills to almost all clients.

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