What is a power of attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document in which you (the donor) give one or more people (attorneys) the right to act on your behalf either generally or in specific circumstances.

Power of attorney can refer to either a general, lasting or enduring power of attorney (although you can no longer make an enduring power of attorney, you may still have one if it was made before October 2007).

General power of attorney (GPA)

A GPA allows the donor to appoint one or more people (attorneys) to manage their financial affairs.

A GPA can be applied to all of the donor's financial matters across all financial providers; or it can be limited, and only grant the attorney access to specific accounts and matters.

The donor must have the mental capacity to make their own decisions when the GPA is set up, and the arrangement ends if the donor loses mental capacity at a later date.  

Lasting power of attorney (LPA)

An LPA allows the donor to appoint one or more people (attorneys) to manage their property and financial affairs or their health and welfare, continuing into, or only at such a time that they are no longer able to make decisions. In order to register an LPA on a Nationwide account, there would need to be a property and financial affairs LPA in place.

The donor must have the mental capacity to make their own decisions when the property and financial affairs LPA is set up, and can continue to manage their money either independently, or alongside the attorney, until such time that mental capacity is lost.

In Scotland, this arrangement is known as a 'continuing power of attorney' or 'financial power of attorney'. In Northern Ireland, this arrangement is known as an 'enduring power of attorney'.

When might a power of attorney be used?

General power of attorney

This may be used if:

  • access and authority to manage a number of accounts across a number of financial providers is needed
  • the donor knows they are likely to need help managing their finances for a period of time, maybe to recover from an illness or operation
  • the donor is going travelling for an extended period or is regularly out of the country for work
  • the donor needs help with a particular financial matter, such as the selling of a property
  • the donor would like someone to act on their behalf only while they’re able to supervise their actions.

Lasting power of attorney

This may be used if:

  • you're planning ahead to a time where you may not be able to make financial decisions
  • you've received a diagnosis of early onset dementia or other condition that may limit your ability to manage finances independently
  • you want control and choice over who should manage financial matters should you lose the ability to make decisions in the future.

What might the attorney be able to do when managing an account?

The donor can choose to limit the accounts and financial matters that they are authorising the attorney to carry out. This can be specified when the GPA or LPA is created.

Unless such restrictions are applied, at Nationwide an attorney may be able to:

  • withdraw cash
  • write cheques
  • bank transfers
  • hold a debit card (either the donor or the attorney can have a card, not both)
  • manage down existing credit card debt (but not spend on or open a new credit card)
  • hold a cheque book (either the donor or the attorney can have a cheque book, not both)
  • access Internet Banking (if the account/s are available through Internet Banking, and if the donor is unable to manage their finances because of mental or physical disability)
  • open a new account
  • close an account, and
  • manage a mortgage (including making repayments and opening a new account, but only to reduce debt).

Registering a power of attorney

Choose the attorneys

It's important that the account holder is confident that this is the right option for them and that the proposed attorney is comfortable with what is being asked of them. Talk it through with each other and if necessary, speak to an expert, such as a solicitor or the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Choose the attorney/s

When choosing attorneys - they could be a family member or friend, a solicitor or accountant or a combination - but they must be over 18 years old. 

If more than one attorney is appointed, it must be specified whether they are to act:

  • Together (known as 'jointly) – both have to act together
  • Separately or together (known as 'jointly and severally') – attorneys can make decisions independently or with other attorneys
  • The donor can state that the attorneys act jointly in some matters and jointly and severally in others – for example day-to-day decisions can be made separately, but bigger decisions must be jointly.

For example, they may be allowed to transact up to £1,000 individually, but to act jointly for transactions over £1,000.

Create the legal document

There are different ways to prepare the document. You can use a solicitor or you can use documents available from the government website.

General power of attorney

Templates for a general power of attorney can be found on various UK websites, or the donor can write their own document as long as specific standard wording is used and the document is signed and witnessed correctly. You may wish to seek advice from a solicitor or from an experienced adviser at your local Citizens Advice Bureau to ensure that the correct wording is used. 

Lasting power of attorney

There is step by step guidance for creating a lasting power of attorney on the gov.uk website.

A lasting power of attorney cannot be used by any financial provider until it has been registered with the:

A registration fee may be charged and the registration process can take 8-10 weeks. 

If you want to register a lasting power of attorney with us, you must have first registered the document with the Office of the Public Guardian (England and Wales), Scottish Office of the Public Guardian (Scotland) or High Court (Office of Care and Protection) in Northern Ireland.

Book an appointment in branch

Bring your power of attorney documents into branch

Once the power of attorney document is drawn up and correctly signed, you'll need to tell us so that we can give the attorney/s access to the relevant accounts.

Making an appointment to visit us in branch means we can give you the support you need, and discuss your requirements in private. It should take around 30 minutes. Please call your nearest branch to arrange a date. Find your nearest branch using our branch finder.

The donor doesn't need to be present at the branch appointment, but at least one of the attorneys does. They must bring:

  • The original or a certified copy of the general power of attorney document - a copy may be certified by the donor themselves (they must have mental capacity at the time of certifying), or by a solicitor, a notary public, or a stockbroker
  • A list of accounts to be managed
  • The Office of the Public Guardian certificate of registration (for lasting power of attorney only)
  • Information about any restrictions the account holder may want.

The attorney(s) must confirm their identity by providing proof of both name and address and provide either:

You can't use the same document to prove both your name and address. 

Each attorney will be required to attend their local branch with their ID before they are able to transact on the account.

Using the power of attorney

After the meeting at branch, our team will check and review the information you've given and register the power of attorney on the Nationwide accounts requested. We'll send a confirmation letter within a week of your appointment.

When the attorney comes to branch to make a transaction, they must bring proof of name and address as well. You can't use the same document to prove both your name and address.

We can only write to one address, which you can choose at registration or a later date.

Registering a foreign power of attorney

We do accept foreign power of attorney documents, but only if the donor has their mental capacity, and it is a general power of attorney. You must provide the original in the foreign language and also have a translation, which is stamped by a notary.

When will the power of attorney end?

General power of attorney

As long as the donor is capable of making their own decisions, they can choose to change or cancel the general power of attorney at any time. To make a change, they just need to update their document and give a copy of the new version to their branch. Or to cancel it, give the branch written confirmation of their request.

It may also end if:

  • the donor loses the ability to make decisions or dies
  • the power is limited to a specific task that’s completed, eg the sale of a house
  • the attorney chooses to stop being an attorney (known as 'disclaiming responsibility')
  • the sole attorney dies or loses their ability to make decisions 
  • the sole attorney becomes bankrupt.

Lasting power of attorney

As long as the donor can still make decisions, they can end or cancel the lasting power of attorney. They must notify their attorneys and write to the relevant office in their jurisdiction.

The LPA may also end if:

  • the donor dies or becomes bankrupt
  • the sole attorney no longer wants to act
  • the sole attorney dies or becomes bankrupt
  • the sole attorney loses capacity.

Where an attorney has been appointed jointly the LPA may also end for the reasons above, if there is no provision in the LPA to appoint a new attorney.

Find out more

Contact us

Visit us in branch

If you need to speak to a member of staff, pop into any branch. Use our branch finder to find your nearest location.

Contact us

Give us a call

Power of Attorney Helpdesk
0800 464 30 18
(Mon to Fri: 9am - 5pm; Sat: 9am - 12pm).