A Power of Attorney is a legal document giving one person (called the Agent or Attorney-in-Fact) the power to act for another person (the Principal). The Agent can have either broad legal authority or limited authority to make legal decisions about the principal’s property, finances or medical care. The Power of Attorney is frequently used in the event of a Principal’s illness or disability, or when the Principal cannot be present to sign necessary legal documents for financial transactions. It may also be used by Principals who reside in the UK, however, want to appoint an agent to act of their behalf in any other country.

A person appointed by the Power of Attorney may be a trusted family member, friend or acquaintance.

An Agent appointed by the general Power of Attorney acts on behalf of the Principal in any and all matters, as allowed by the law. The agent under a general Power of Attorney agreement may be authorised to take care of issues such as handling bank accounts, signing checks, selling property and assets like stocks, filing taxes, etc.

A limited Power of Attorney gives the Agent the power to act on behalf of the Principal in specific matters or events. For example, the limited Power of Attorney may explicitly state that the agent is only allowed to manage the principal’s retirement accounts. A limited Power of Attorney may also be limited to a specific period of time, e.g., if the principal will be out of the country for some time. 

Most Powers of Attorney allow an Agent to represent the Principal in all property and financial matters as long as the Principal’s mental state of mind is good. If a situation occurs where the Principal becomes incapable of making decisions for him or herself, the Power of Attorney agreement would automatically end.

However, someone who wants the Power of Attorney to remain in effect after the person’s health deteriorates would need to sign a Lasting Power of Attorney. Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document that lets you (the Donor) appoint one or more people (known as Attorneys) to help you make decisions or to make decisions on your behalf. This gives you more control over what happens to you if you have an accident or an illness and cannot make your own decisions (you ‘lack mental capacity’).

You must be 18 or over and have mental capacity (the ability to make your own decisions) when you make your Lasting Power of Attorney. You do not need to live in the UK or be a British citizen.

A Power of Attorney can end for a number of reasons, such as when the Principal dies, the Principal revokes it, a court invalidates it, the Principal divorces his/her spouse who happens to be the Agent, or the Agent can no longer carry out the outlined responsibilities.

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