Injury or illness can strike without warning that prevents you from being able to take care of yourself or communicate your wishes to others. An Enduring Power of Attorney (“EPA”) is an important legal document in which you nominate a person/s you trust to manage your affairs in the event you lose the mental and physical ability to do so yourself.
How Do They Work
You appoint an attorney or attorneys (a relative, a friend, a professional etc.) who has the ability to act within your best interests. Your attorney must be someone you trust because in the event that you lose capacity you are giving someone the power and responsibility to control your:
- personal matters, including where you live, what you eat, what you wear and who you have contact with;
- health care matters, including who your doctor is and what medical treatment you receive;
- financial matters, including managing your assets, collecting your income, paying your bills and even selling your home.
Whoever you decide to appoint as your attorney must be over the age of 18 years and cannot be your paid carer.
Your attorney’s power in relation to your health matters only begins if and when you become incapable of making your own decisions. For financial matters, you can elect when you wish your attorneys power to begin, whether immediately or upon you losing capacity.
An attorney has several responsibilities and obligations, including acting with care and honesty, and considering your existing relationships, wishes and views. An attorney acting on behalf of your finances must keep records of all transactions and dealings and must avoid any conflicts between their interests and your own.
There are certain circumstances to keep in mind that can bring an EPA to an end, including marriage or divorce, your death or the death of your attorney, if your attorney becomes bankrupt or if you simply create a new EPA.
What happens if you do not have an EPA?
If you do not have an EPA and you lose capacity no one can act on your behalf. This can be an extremely stressful time for your family and friends as they will need to apply to the the Civil and Administrative Tribunal in your state to be appointed as your attorney. This can become an extremely expensive process for your loved ones.