Guide to power of attorney
Whether you need support to manage your money now or you’re planning for the future, a power of attorney could help. Here you’ll find information on the different types of power of attorney, how they work and what you’ll need to set one up.
Already have a power of attorney in place? Find out how to register a power of attorney with us.
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Types of power of attorney
There are different types of power of attorney available depending on where you live in the UK and the kind of support you want.
General power of attorney (GPA)
A GPA is a legal document. It allows someone to help you make decisions about your money or property. It's sometimes called an 'ordinary power of attorney' (or 'power of attorney' in Northern Ireland).
How long does it last?
You can set up a GPA to last for a fixed amount of time. Or for as long as it takes to complete a specific task (like selling a house). It will end automatically if you lose mental capacity. This means you're no longer able to make your own decisions.
How can it help?
A GPA is designed to give you short-term support with money or property. It could be useful if you're unwell, you would like help with a specific task or you'd simply prefer someone else to be able to make decisions on your behalf.
Lasting power of attorney (LPA)
An LPA is a legal document. It lets someone make decisions on your behalf even if you're no longer able to (or you simply don't want to).
There are 2 different types of LPA:
- Health and welfare: this covers things like your medical care, where you should live and who can contact you.
- Property and financial affairs: this covers things like buying or selling property and managing money.
You'll need to set up an LPA while you have mental capacity. This means you're still able to make your own decisions without help.
How long does it last?
An LPA is designed to give you long-term support. And you can choose when you'd like it to start. This can be as soon as it is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian or only if you lose mental capacity in the future.
How can it help?
An LPA is useful if you’re thinking about how best to prepare for the future.
Perhaps you're worried about becoming unwell as you get older? An LPA helps you stay in control of your finances as you'll know exactly how your affairs will be managed in the future.
Continuing power of attorney and combined power of attorney
A continuing power of attorney is only available in Scotland. But it works in a similar way to a LPA.
A continuing power of attorney is a legal document. You (the ‘granter’) can allow 1 or more people (the 'attorneys') to make decisions about your money or property.
You can also set up a welfare power of attorney. This legal document lets someone else make decisions about your healthcare or medical treatment.
If you'd like the same attorney to manage both your money and welfare, this is called a 'combined power of attorney'.
How long does it last?
You'll need to set up a continuing power of attorney while you have mental capacity. This means you're still able to make your own decisions without help.
You will set out in the document when you’d like it to start. This can be when you register the document with the Office of the Public Guardian Scotland or at the point you need help from an attorney in the future.
How can it help?
A continuing power of attorney is designed to give you long-term support. For example, if you become unwell as you get older, an attorney can step in to help manage your affairs.
Enduring power of attorney (EPA)
An EPA is a legal document. It allows someone else to make decisions about your money and property on your behalf.
EPA is only issued in Northern Ireland.
How long does it last?
You'll need to set up an EPA while you have mental capacity. This means you're still able to make your own decisions without help.
You can choose when you'd like the EPA to start. This can be when you both sign the document or at the point you need help from an attorney in the future.
How can it help?
An EPA is designed to give you long-term support. So, it's useful if you're thinking about how your affairs will be managed in future. For example, if you become unwell or unable to make your own decisions.
Remember, the EPA only lets someone else manage your finances. If you want to set up an arrangement for your health and welfare, you'll need an LPA too.
What can an attorney do?
With any power of attorney, it’s up to you to decide what an attorney can (or cannot) do on your behalf.
When someone agrees to act as your attorney, they agree to only make decisions in your best interests. And they can only act in ways you’ve set out in the document.
For extra financial protection, attorneys should keep a record of any money they spend. And you can review those records at any time.
Can my partner or spouse act for me?
Most organisations – like Nationwide – cannot give anyone but you access to your money or information.
If you’d like support from your partner or spouse, you’ll need to have a document like a power of attorney or Third Party Mandate in place.
What’s the difference between power of attorney and a joint account?
With a joint account, you and the other person legally share all the money (and all the debt) in the account.
But with a power of attorney, you remain in control of all your money. And the attorney can only access your accounts in the way you’ve set out.
What an attorney can do at Nationwide
Once the document is registered with us, some of the things attorneys could do include:
Paying bills and making transfers
Managing regular payments (like standing orders)
Selling property or managing mortgage payments
How long does a power of attorney last?
In most cases, when you set up the power of attorney, you decide how long it will last.
As long as you have mental capacity – meaning you can make your own decisions – you can choose to end a power of attorney at any time.
Ending a general power of attorney (GPA)
A GPA will end if you lose mental capacity. It’s generally designed to give you short-term support. So, if you become unable to make your own decisions – perhaps due to illness – the power of attorney will end.
Ending a lasting power of attorney (LPA)
An LPA works differently. This is designed to give you long-term support if and when you need it.
You can choose to start an LPA at any point . And it will continue to last throughout your lifetime – even if you lose mental capacity.
You can end an LPA by using a deed of revocation as long as you haven’t lost mental capacity.
Other reasons a power of attorney might end
Your power of attorney will automatically end:
- when you die
- if your attorney dies and you don’t have a replacement attorney
- if your attorney loses the ability to make decisions
- if an attorney responsible for your finances becomes bankrupt or subject to a Debt Relief Order .
How much does a power of attorney cost?
Costs can vary depending on the type of power of attorney you choose and whether you get help from a solicitor.
You don’t have to use a solicitor to set up a power of attorney. But remember that these are legal documents. So, you may want to seek independent legal advice.
Registering a power of attorney in the UK
Depending on where you live, you must register a lasting power of attorney (LPA) with the relevant agency. In England and Wales, this would be the Office of the Public Guardian. Your attorney can only start supporting you once the document is registered.
(You do not need to register a general power of attorney (GPA) anywhere in the UK. You can start using this as soon as you have signed the document.)
Costs to register an LPA
Each agency charges around £80 to £150 to register each document – though this can vary.
If you are on a low income or receive certain benefits, you may only need to pay some or none of this fee. Speak to the registration agency for more information.
Where to register an LPA
In England and Wales, register an LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian.
In Scotland, register a continuing power of attorney with the Office of the Public Guardian (Scotland).
In Northern Ireland, register an enduring power of attorney (EPA) with the Office of Care and Protection.
How do I set up a power of attorney?
In England and Wales, you can set up a power of attorney online, by post or via a solicitor.
Choosing an attorney
You can choose anyone to act on your behalf. As long as they’re aged 18 or over and able to make decisions for you and for themselves.
You can have as many attorneys as you like – though most people tend to choose between 1 and 4. You may choose to have different attorneys to manage different tasks such as one for health and one for money.
Each attorney should act in your best interests. So, think about choosing someone who knows you well and who you trust to make decisions for you.
If you prefer, you can choose a professional attorney – like a solicitor or accountant. This could be helpful if you have complex affairs or you’d rather not ask friends or family.
How attorneys work together
If you choose to have more than 1 attorney, you’ll need to decide how they make decisions together.
You can set out that all attorneys must make decisions together. This is called ‘acting Jointly’. Or if you’re happy for each attorney to make decisions on their own, this is called ‘acting Jointly and Severally’.
You may decide that attorneys can act on their own in some matters and together in others. For example, you might want all attorneys to make decisions about property together. But they can manage your current accounts without having to consult each other.
Do I need a solicitor to set up a power of attorney?
You don’t have to use a solicitor to set up a power of attorney. Once you’ve chosen your attorney(s), you can create your own document or complete a setup form. You can access the form via a registration agency (like the Office of the Public Guardian).
Remember that all types of power of attorney are legal documents. And some can last a long time. So, you may choose to get professional advice from a solicitor.
Setting up a general power of attorney (GPA)
You can create a GPA yourself or choose to get help from a solicitor. The document will follow specific wording and is signed by you.
Setting up a lasting power of attorney (LPA)
First, you need to access a power of attorney forms from the registration agency or a solicitor. For example, in England and Wales, you can get a setup form by contacting the Office of the Public Guardian.
Both you and your attorney(s) will need to sign and complete the form. In most cases, you can do this online or using a paper form.
You will also need to have the form signed by a ‘certificate provider’. This is someone independent – often a GP or other professional. They sign to confirm that you have mental capacity and are not being forced into setting up the arrangement.
Next, you’ll return your completed forms to the registration agency. You can do this online, by post or by asking your solicitor to manage this.
Depending on where you live in the UK, it can take a few weeks for the agency to register the document. So, bear this in mind if you need your attorney to support you in the near future.
Register a power of attorney with us
If you have a power of attorney already, you’ll need to register it with us before your attorney can access your Nationwide accounts.
Looking for help?
Already acting as an attorney?
We’ve put together a guide to help you manage someone else’s money as simply as possible.
Third Party Mandate
If you’d like to get help managing your money – but a power of attorney isn’t quite right – you may prefer a Third Party Mandate.