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Whilst many people understand what a Will is and probably know that they should have one in place, many people do not realise the importance of having a Power of Attorney (POA) in place.

Whilst many people understand what a Will is and probably know that they should have one in place, many people do not realise the importance of having a Power of Attorney (POA) in place.

Just prior to lockdown there was a flurry of phone calls to our offices from clients who had either been advised to shield or were going to self isolate for at least 12 weeks if not longer. Clients suddenly realised that if they were not going to be leaving the house, they would need to give a family member the authority to access their bank account, pay bills, withdraw money etc. Putting in place a financial Power of Attorney, allows someone to help you in this type of situation.

Once restrictions eased we were also contacted by clients concerned about a family member whose mental capacity had deteriorated during lock down. In some cases it was too late to put a Power of Attorney in place. A Power of Attorney can only be granted whilst someone has capacity. If a family member has lost capacity and is in hospital, no one has the authority to discharge the family member, whether that be to take them home or to have them placed in a care home. This can cause a significant amount of stress and distress for the family, at an already upsetting time.

This article is being written at the end of September when restrictions are starting to be brought back into place. At the time you are reading this who knows whether we will be in lockdown again or whether infections rates have been brought under control. As part of the easing of lockdown restrictions, we have been able to travel abroad again however the rules change quickly and at the start of lockdown some clients found themselves stuck abroad in the middle of selling/purchasing their house and not being in a position to settle.

If you are in the middle of purchasing/selling your property or are thinking about putting your property on the market and are planning a holiday abroad you can put a Power of Attorney in place which would allow a family member/friend who is still here in Scotland to sign any necessary documents on your behalf should you be unable to return to do so. Your attorney would also be able to access your bank accounts if necessary and make phone calls on your behalf to insurance companies or airlines. If you are planning a trip abroad you should think of a Power of Attorney like an insurance policy – You hope that it will never be needed to be used but should any problems arise, you have it in place. Putting a Power of Attorney in place will probably cost less than your annual insurance premium and is far more cost effective than finding yourself in breach of contract for a sale or purchase of a property.

Anyone who is a sole trader or runs a family business should also consider putting a Power of Attorney in place. Again, if you were to go abroad and not be able to return home, your Power of Attorney would have the authority to continue running your business until you could get back to Scotland.

If someone has lost mental capacity and does not have a Power of Attorney in place, the only alternative is to have a guardian appointed and this involves a court process. This has always been a lengthy process and in the current climate, it is likely to take even longer.  If you are concerned that a family member may need a POA in place at some point, arrange for it to be done now whilst you can.

If you would like to discuss putting a Power of Attorney in place our solicitors are working  in our offices and can be contacted by phone or by email and are also happy to arrange a meeting by zoom. The signing of the documents can also be arranged via zoom.

Contact our Estate Planning Lawyers at The McKinstry Company

If you have any queries about putting a Power of Attorney in place please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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