I have been made an attorney but don’t know what I should be doing
Jun 18, 2021
An attorney is appointed to make decisions on behalf of someone who is no longer able to make them for them self. This may be because the person has had an accident or is suffering an illness such as dementia which means they have lost mental capacity – the legal term for the ability to make and communicate decisions.
There are various circumstances in which an attorney can be appointed. It could be for a temporary period while a person is incapacitated in hospital. But it could also be where a person has planned ahead and put in place a Lasting Power of Attorney (‘LPA’). This document can be relied on immediately if he or she goes on to lose their mental capacity (or if other circumstances in the LPA apply), and the nominated attorney can begin to make decisions for them.
There are two broad categories of decisions that an attorney can make: property and financial affairs, and health and welfare. Included can be anything from dealing with the person’s outgoings, to whether they should sell their home, to the type of medical treatment they should receive. As an attorney, you may be appointed to handle decisions about either property and finances or health and welfare, or you could be responsible for both. So, it’s important to understand the specific remit of your role – which you may be expected to carry out by yourself or alongside another appointed attorney.
Attorneys sometimes worry that they’re not qualified to make what can be hugely significant decisions about someone else’s life. But while particular skills may be helpful, they’re not essential. The most important aspect of an attorney’s job is to act with reasonable care to make decisions that are in the best interests of the person who has appointed you. You will have been chosen because you’re trusted. And by keeping the person for whom you’re making decisions front and centre (and applying any specific wishes they’ve specified), you will be well placed to do the right thing by them.
For help and advice about any aspect of being an attorney, or to put a Lasting Power of Attorney in place, contact Tom Pettman or any member of the Private Client Team on 01264 353411 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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