Powers of Attorney
While it is difficult to consider what could happen in the event of a significant accident or critical illness, some planning is absolutely essential and one way to do this is to through putting in a power of attorney.
A power of attorney is a legal document that gives a person, nominated by you, the power to act on your behalf. Arranging for a trusted and reliable relative, friend or advisor to make decisions on your behalf can give you the peace of mind that your affairs will be managed when you prefer not to do so personally, or are no longer able to.
Generally speaking, the different types of power of attorney include:
- A general power of attorney, where you appoint someone to make financial and legal decisions for you, usually for a specified period of time, for example if you're overseas and unable to manage your legal affairs at home. This person's appointment becomes invalid if you lose the capacity to make decisions for yourself.
- An enduring power of attorney, where you appoint a person to make financial and legal decisions for you; "enduring" means the power continues (endures) even when you cant make decisions yourself due to e.g. accident or illness (either temporary or permanent).
- A medical power of attorney can make only medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so yourself; (depending on the State/ Territory or residence, medical authority may or may not be included within an enduring power of attorney, and if not, requires a separate document to be prepared).
The enduring (and medical) power of attorney are most relevant where you wish to appoint substitute decision makers ("agents" or "attorneys") to help or make decisions on your behalf for:
- The management of your financial matters, including any legal matters that relate to your financial or property affairs;
- Your future medical treatment and care: you can appoint a medical agent who can decide whether to consent to medical or dental treatment, and can refuse medical treatment, on your behalf. The medical agent can only act if you are unable to make your own decisions about medical or dental treatment;
- Other personal and lifestyle matters (eg. where you live, support services you might need, and your health care).
It should be noted that the laws involved in drawing up a power of attorney can be complicated, and the powers you can delegate will differ depending on which state or territory you live in. You should contact the relevant authority where you live (see also below) and we recommend strongly that you involve a legal advisor/solicitor in the process.
On a practical note you will find that many institutions may require a copy of the POA - including Centrelink, banks, super funds, doctors, pharmacists, nursing home, Councils, utility providers and telcos, and some will require original documentation. Consequently, you may need to arrange 5 or 10 certified copies of the POA.
More information on power of attorney in your state or territory can be viewed here: