We all hear the term EPA (or in full, Enduring Powers of Attorney), and we all have a general understanding of their importance. But, why are they so important? The EPA gives the nominated person (usually a friend or family member) the ability to make decisions on your behalf. It is a legally binding document and is overseen by the Family Court.
There are two kinds of EPA; Property (assets and cash) and Personal Care and Welfare (medical and living arrangements).
You can appoint one or more people as your attorney’s for Property and they can act together or separately (but remain responsible for the other if more than one attorney is appointed). Property EPA’s can come into effect immediately or in the event that you do not have mental capacity.
Personal Care and Welfare EPAs, by contrast, can only be vested into one person and is only operational when a Medical Practitioner states that you no longer have mental capacity.
If you do not have an EPA and cannot exercise your mental capacity, then you cannot make decisions and guardians will need to be appointed by the Family Court. This can be at considerable financial cost and can add stress at a time when it is not needed.
EPAs are not always for the aged. As a personal experience, when my wife was pregnant with our first child she had to have an epidural. There is a risk in this procedure that there could be damage to the spinal chord and a consent is required. As my wife was not in a position to be making a sound decision, I would not let her sign the consent as at that stage she would have happily signed away the deeds to the house to get pain relief. With an EPA in place, I was able to sign the form as her Attorney.
It is important to consider who holds the attorney, as they must be trusted to understand and respect your wishes to make important decisions for you.