Power of Attorney: a personal experience

I myself am a lawyer; however, I don’t have professional experience in this area. I have written this memoire / article to help you deal with the required procedures with least possible stress to your family.

  • It is very, very upsetting to watch a parent, once so strong and reliable, gradually disintegrate, from the first serious loss of memory, to the last days when life holds no pleasure at all. It is rather like the reverse of the wonderful times when your small child shows signs of better talking or moving or understanding almost every day. In this case, every day brings another tiny task she can no longer do for herself or a simple fact she can no longer remember.

  • I have three brothers. Our mother was 81 when she first started to deteriorate more than minimally. ;One Tuesday, my brother Tom saw a leaflet at our GP’s for Alzheimer’s. When he told me about it, I thought he was imagining it. It soon became clear that he was not.

  • My mother was still aware about her finances, her investments, the value of her house and where she wanted to live next, to tell us exactly what she thought of an EPoA. Needless to say, her views were different from ours.

  • We decided that we must talk to her more seriously. We decided that the oldest, Peter, should be given this duty. It took some time and many conversations for her to agree. She was upset that we were ‘dealing’ with her “behind her back”. Of course, we just wanted the best for her. Eventually, she agreed and off we went to find the papers.

  • So my first lesson / advice is to try to get the form completed while your parent is still “young”. Far better to do it when she is 75 than 81. Of course, let her specify whatever precautions she wishes. I understand how hard it is to explain to a determined person who is “losing it” why you want to control her bank account and her house. It is also time consuming and upsetting.

  • Lesson number two: get the form right! It is quite long and could be complicated. The trouble is that you do not know whether you have completed it properly until you come to register it at a later date. If at that time, some correction needs to be signed by the donor, you may be too late!

  • Next, note that the “form” you have to complete contains very long instructions for the donor. It is essential that the explanation is kept in full, as part of the form. If you submit for registration only the part of the document that looks like the form, it will be rejected. The instructions tell you this, but it is easy to overlook because it does not seem right to submit the form with a ten page instruction book. Of course the reason is to make sure that the donor has had every opportunity to “read all about it” before she signs away her financial life.

  • Covering all aspects with my mother was tricky. Once we had one thing sorted, another would look its head and so another upsetting conversation would begin. For example, you will have to consider how many attorneys she will want and who they will be. Do they act together, or can they act alone? Is the power to cover everything, or is it limited? Do not leave these things to be discussed only when she has lost her cheque book and you are stuck buying her daily bread (or her expensive hip operation) from your own pocket.

  • Be methodical and precise. Choose one of you to be “in charge” of getting the document completed and (possibly later) registered. If you have time, errors matter less.

  • Registration takes a long time. Do not wait until you need to make an urgent payment for him, before submitting the forms.

  • When our document came back, the government stamp was very faint. I am told that this happens a lot. We were advised to send it back with a sharp letter, asking for a stronger mark.

  • Get the document copied and the copies certified as “true” by a solicitor. While you are at it, get 1

  • Now everyone with whom you will deal on his behalf will want to see this document before they will “perform”. Most will want to see the original. This calls for careful management of the submissions, so that you know who to chase if you suddenly find you do not have it. Start with the bank. If you have money, most other things can wait at least a few days. Send a certified copy to non-financial places.

  • Be prepared for an organisation to forget that you have registered with them! There is little you can do to prevent that, but at least avoid being reliant on someone performing in circumstances where time is not flexible.

  • Consider opening an account in the name of one of you personally and paying into that for day to day requirements. We didn’t do this until a year later and wish we had done so earlier. For that account there can be no question of any problem with the EPoA.

Please note that the information provided on this page:

  • Does not provide a complete or authoritative statement of the law;
  • Does not constitute legal advice by Net Lawman;
  • Does not create a contractual relationship;
  • Does not form part of any other advice, whether paid or free.
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