Power of Attorney – It’s for people like you

No one wants to be left in limbo should the worst happen, finding themselves suddenly incapacitated - struck down by Covid-19 or other serious illness or accident.

No automatic legal rights 

Whether brought about by the pandemic, a dementia diagnosis, mental health issue, traffic accident or injury at work, distressed families, friends and partners frequently discover – to their dismay – that they have no automatic legal rights to direct the medical welfare or financial affairs of a loved one who can no longer make these decisions for themselves. In such cases, a court-appointed Guardian generally steps in to oversee their welfare.

Everyone needs a Power of Attorney

Yet it needn’t be this way. Contrary to urban myth, the only officially recognised way to ensure that a trusted family member or friend is legally empowered to oversee their loved one’s affairs is to have a Power of Attorney (PoA) registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (Scotland) ahead of time.

Crucial issue for Health and Social Care Partnerships

Anyone aged over 16 years can grant a Power of Attorney, either solely addressing their welfare or financial affairs or combining both in a single document. This is such a crucial issue, potentially affecting millions of Scots, that Scotland’s health and social care partnerships have come together to actively support and spread the word about Power of Attorney Day 2021 which will take place on 30 September, spearheaded by Health and Social Care Scotland.

Multiple partners from the public, private and voluntary sector are on board, including the Office of the Public Guardian (Scotland), Scottish Legal Aid Board, the Law Society of Scotland and Alzheimer Scotland with support from carers’ networks and advocacy groups Scotland-wide.

Raising awareness of the benefits

Judith Proctor, chair of the chief officers’ group, Health and Social Care Scotland said: “Care professionals across Scotland will be supporting Power of Attorney Day by raising awareness of the many benefits of registering a Power of Attorney. Perhaps surprisingly, only around 80,000 Scots – less than 1.5% of the Scottish population - have registered a PoA each year between 2018 and 2021.

“To raise awareness, Power of Attorney Day 2021 will highlight the practical benefits of granting PoA while busting a few myths and commonly-held misunderstandings, such as Power of Attorney isn’t just for the elderly or infirm. It’s for people like you.

It is not about giving away power

“Power of Attorney does not mean giving away your power or legal rights nor does it replace your will. It’s more akin to the insurance policies we may have for our homes and cars, so why not this straightforward document to safeguard your own wishes during your lifetime? With PoA in place, a trusted family member or friend can carry out your instructions should you lose the ability to make your own decisions.”

Work to do in Scotland

Fiona Brown, Office of the Public Guardian (Scotland) said: “The Office of the Public Guardian is responsible for registering Powers of Attorney, and since 2001 has registered in the region of 675,000 deeds. This equates to around 14% of the adult population of Scotland, so as a nation we have some work to do, to ensure as many adults as possible prepare and register their Power of Attorney deed.

Prepare your deed and register it 

“There are a few misapprehensions around the need for a Power of Attorney, which are being addressed by this campaign, but if I had a plea to the adult population of Scotland, it would be to please prepare your deed and have it registered by us. We all need one regardless of our age, health, wealth, or relationship status.

Life can change quickly

“You never know when your physical or mental health could change as a result of accident or illness, so to ensure you are the one who decides who should look after your affairs if you cannot, and to reduce the burden and stress on your family at that time, please appoint a legal proxy, by organising and registering your Power of Attorney.”

Assistance is available

Kirsteen Watson, Assistant Manager of Civil Legal Services at the Scottish Legal Aid Board, said: “Anyone with a weekly disposable income of up to £245 could be eligible for advice and assistance to have a solicitor prepare a Power of Attorney on their behalf.

“Our website has an online calculator to help find out whether you may qualify for advice and assistance. We also have a listing of solicitors you can search to see if there is one who can act for you locally, and some may offer online consultations during these pandemic-restricted times.”

Get involved in the conversation

Both medical professionals and solicitors are legally empowered to authorise Power of Attorney. More details from www.mypowerofattorney.org.uk, and social channels @StartTalkingPoA – hashtags #PoA21 and #PoADay21 (Twitter), and StartTalkingPoA (Facebook). 

30 Sep 2021