What does power of attorney mean?


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You may have heard the term ‘power of attorney’ before but you may not understand what it means.  There are different forms of power of attorney such as ordinary, limited and lasting, but in general terms, it means to give someone the power to act on behalf of someone else in legal or financial matters.

Some people have a power of attorney agreement in place which states how much control you wish to give someone else on your behalf. For example, you may state that you wish to give someone power of attorney for 3 – 4 months whilst you recover from an operation.

It is important to note that giving someone power of attorney does not take away your right to make decisions and take action for yourself.

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Ordinary Power of Attorney

If an individual is experiencing health problem which are known to be temporary, then this is the most appropriate type to choose. It allows an appointed person to be in charge and look after things such as legal and financial affairs for a period of time – often until you are back on your feet.

Limited Power of Attorney

Some people may wish to appoint a power of attorney but have limits in place on what a person can or can’t do. In this case, a limited power of attorney can be drawn up where you can stipulate exactly what your appointed person can deal with.

Lasting Power of Attorney

If an individual has been diagnosed with a condition or illness where your mental capacity may be affected in the future, an ordinary power of attorney may not be sufficient as they may not know the exact time frame. In this instance, a lasting power of attorney (LPA) should be considered.

Not only will the appointed person have the power to look after legal or financial matters, they will also look after personal welfare if the holder becomes mentally incapacitated. For a lasting power of attorney to be legal, it must be registered.

There are two types of lasting power of attorney:

  • Property Affairs LPA – this allows the appointed person to look after any property, legal, financial or business matters on your behalf.
  • Personal Welfare LPA – the appointed person can make decisions on where you live, what medical care you receive (which includes the ability to refuse treatment) and your general welfare.

You can have either type of lasting power of attorney in place, or indeed both. However, you don’t have to have both in place at the same time.


There are many cases where an individual becomes mentally incapacitated and they haven’t appointed anyone as their power of attorney. If this is the case and you wish to take on this role, you can apply for deputyship. To do this, you need to contact the Office of the Public Guardian.

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