How a Power of Attorney can help families of those serving abroad

Serving in the armed forces often means extended periods away from home. This has many implications, including your ability to help and support loved ones, as well as conducting UK based legal processes, such as buying or selling a home. To help with matters like this you will need a Power of Attorney.

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What is Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows a person to appoint trusted individuals (known as an attorney) to make important decisions on your behalf. This may be because you are no longer able to make decisions yourself or it may be that you are able to make decisions for yourself but you would like some assistance.

There are different types of power of attorney and you can set up more than one.

1. Ordinary power of attorney

This type of document can be set up and used to cover decisions about your financial affairs. This document will only be valid while you have mental capacity. If you lose mental capacity the document will no longer be valid and the named attorney(s) are no longer able to act. This document cannot cover any health or care matters. It is suitable if you need cover for a temporary period or whilst you are setting up Lasting Powers of Attorney.

2. Lasting power of attorney (LPA)

This type of document can be set up and used to cover decisions about your financial affairs and/or your health and care. There are two separate documents, one for finances and one for health. There is a formal procedure when creating these documents and they need to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. The Financial LPA can come into effect as soon as it is registered and continue if you lose mental capacity whereas the Health LPA will only come into effect if you lose mental capacity. These documents will make sure you are covered now and in the future.

Related content: What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?

3. Enduring power of attorney (EPA)

These documents are the older style powers of attorney and were replaced by LPAs in October 2007. However, if you made and signed an EPA before 1 October 2007, it should still be valid. An EPA will only cover decisions about financial affairs and will not cover any health or care matters.

What can my attorney do while I'm serving abroad?

Appointing an attorney means that your attorney is able to legally act as you. Essentially, they are able to do anything that you would be able to do. Your attorney must make decisions in your best interests. They will follow any instructions made in your LPA. Your attorney should help you make your own decisions as much as they can and not just take over. 

As a property and financial affairs attorney, your attorney can make decisions about things like:

  • money, tax and bills
  • bank and building society accounts
  • property and investments
  • pensions and benefits

As a health and welfare attorney,your attorney can make decisions about things like:

  • daily routine, for example washing, dressing and eating
  • medical care
  • where the donor lives

A Power of Attorney can be constructed by a lawyer to cover certain areas only. For example, an ordinary POA or a Financial LPA can be set up in a way so that it only deals with selling and buying property. 

How can a power of attorney help me support my loved ones?

A Power of Attorney is the key document in helping families to help support their loved ones. This is the only document that will give you the legal authority to act on another person’s behalf. It is a misconception that the ‘next of kin’ will automatically be able to act on someone’s behalf and unfortunately, in these scenarios, there is no one legally able to act. 

We often act for those with Dementia and long-term illness when their families are unable to do so. So if someone is away serving with the military we may be able to assist them in taking care of their loved ones. At Goughs, we are able to act as professional attorneys for financial matters and would be able to make important decisions if no one else is able to do so.

Alternatively, if you are serving away with the military it may be wise to set up a Power of Attorney for yourself. You are then able to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf. This may be particularly important if you need someone to contact financial institutions when you are unable to do so. Your attorney will also be able to sell or buy property on your behalf which could be necessary if you are in the middle of a property transaction when you are called to serve away.

What is the process for putting in place a Power of Attorney?

LPAs are governed by the Office of the Public Guardian and they provide the documents needed. 

You can fill out the forms yourself, or with the help of a solicitor. We would always recommend taking professional legal advice as this can prevent problems later on, especially if you’re unsure of the process or your affairs are complex.

Once the documents are completed, they will need to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before they can be used. There is a registration fee of £82 per document. You must register your LPA while you still have the mental capacity and it can’t be used during the registration process which can take up to 20 weeks. If you lose mental capacity but signed the LPA while you still had mental capacity, your attorney can register it for you.

How can Goughs help?

If a loved one of yours needs some assistance and you are unable to personally help them, we would be more than happy to have a conversation with them to see if we are able to assist on your behalf. Alternatively, if you need to set up a power of attorney so that loved ones are able to make decisions on your behalf whilst you are unable to make these due to serving away, we can assist in setting up the relevant documents to facilitate this. 

We understand the challenges of arranging time to discuss issues with a UK based lawyer, so to make this as easy as possible we can facilitate a meeting around your needs.   

To find out more about how we can help, please get in touch and one of our specialised armed forces team can speak with you.

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Author Bio

Samantha Pettersen

I have been practicing in Private Client law since 2018. I was introduced to this area of law during my training contract and I soon realised that this was the area of law that I had a real passion for. I qualified as a solicitor in January 2020 and was promoted to Associate Solicitor in October 2022.

I love the personal interaction with clients and being able to help them with difficult personal and emotional circumstances.

My progression includes being an affiliate member of STEP and a Longstanding Member of Association of Lifetime Lawyers.

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