Power of attorney – Setting up a lasting power of attorney (LPA) | ͵͵


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Power of attorney

A power of attorney is a way of giving someone you trust the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf if you're no longer able to make them yourself – or if you don't want to.

What is a power of attorney?

There might come a time when you're no longer able to make or communicate your own decisions. Having a power of attorney set up can make things much easier if and when that time comes – so it's worth considering now. 

A power of attorney is a legal document that appoints someone – your 'attorney' – to make decisions on your behalf.

There are a number of reasons why you may need someone to make decisions on your behalf. It may be a temporary measure, if you're going into hospital and need help with everyday financial tasks like paying your bills. Or it may be part of long-term planning – if, for example, you've been diagnosed with dementia and want to plan ahead in case you lose mental capacity to make your own decisions in the future. 

What is mental capacity?

Having mental capacity means being able to make your own decisions and understand the consequences of those decisions. No one can make a decision on your behalf unless it can be shown that you lack mental capacity. 

If you lack mental capacity for a decision, it means you're unable to do one or more of the following:

  • understand the information relating to the decision
  • weigh up that information
  • remember that information for long enough to make your decision
  • communicate your decision (whether verbally, using sign language, or by other means).

However, whether someone has mental capacity can change depending on the decision – so someone might be able to make decisions about certain things but not others. Others might be able to make a decision at a certain time, but unable to make the same decision at another time. This is why anyone considering whether you have mental capacity needs to consider your ability to make and communicate a specific decision at the time it needs to be made. 

You should be given as much help as possible to make and communicate a decision before anyone judges that you lack mental capacity.

Taking time to weigh up or communicate a decision shouldn't be mistaken for a lack of mental capacity. Nor should having a certain condition, such as dementia. For example, someone may still have capacity to make certain decisions for some time following a diagnosis.

What are the different types of power of attorney?

There are 3 different types of power of attorney: lasting power of attorney, enduring power of attorney and ordinary power of attorney.

You can set up more than one. However, if you want to make a power of attorney in case there comes a time when you lose mental capacity, then only the lasting power of attorney is relevant to you. 

What is a lasting power of attorney (LPA)?

There are two types of LPA: one for making financial decisions and another for making health and care decisions. You can set up LPAs for both types of decisions.

An LPA for health and care decisions can only be used if you lose mental capacity. An LPA for financial decisions can also be used while you still have mental capacity if this is what you’d prefer, but you need to choose this option when setting it up. 

You can only create an LPA if you have mental capacity to do so and you haven’t been put under any pressure to set it up.

An LPA isn’t necessarily permanent. You can cancel it at any time while you have mental capacity by writing to your attorney or attorneys and the Office of the Public Guardian and advising them of your decision.

LPA property and financial affairs decisions

If you create this type of LPA, your attorney can make decisions about things like:

  • selling your home
  • paying your mortgage and bills
  • arranging repairs to your home.

Key facts:

  • You decide when you want this type of LPA to start. This might be while you still have mental capacity, or it might be if and when you lose mental capacity.
  • This type of LPA gives your attorney the authority to make all decisions about your finances and property, unless you limit their authority by including specific instructions when setting it up. 
  • Your attorney usually has to keep your money separate from theirs and keep accounts to show this.
  • You can ask for regular updates on how much money you have and how much has been spent. If you’d like, these updates can also be sent to your solicitor or a family member.

LPA for health and care decisions

If you create this type of LPA, your attorney can make decisions about things like:

  • where you live
  • your medical treatment
  • the care and support you receive
  • who you have contact with
  • what kind of social activities you take part in.

Key facts:

  • Unlike an LPA for financial decisions, your attorney can only use this LPA if you no longer have mental capacity.
  • When setting up the LPA, you must decide whether to give your attorney the authority to make decisions about life-saving treatment.
  • If you lose mental capacity and don’t have this type of LPA in place, any decisions about your health or care will be made by the professionals relevant to your situation, such as your doctor or your local council’s social services department. If appropriate, they must consult your family (or anyone else with an interest in your welfare) when deciding what is in your best interests – but the final decision lies with them.

What is an enduring power of attorney (EPA)?

An EPA is only for financial decisions. If you created an EPA before 1 October 2007, it's still valid, but you can't make a new one – LPAs are now used instead. Given this, we don't go into any more information about EPAs on this page.

What is an ordinary power of attorney (OPA)?

An OPA is for financial decisions only, and it's only valid while you still have mental capacity. 

An OPA can be useful if you need someone to look after your finances temporarily – for example, because you’re going into hospital or away on holiday. Or it might be that you find it difficult to get to the bank or post office, and having someone to act on your behalf would make things easier for you.

You can limit the power you give to your attorney – for example, you could allow them to deal with your bank account but not your property.

An OPA is useful in certain situations, but it's usually best to create an LPA instead as your attorney can continue to act for you if you ever lose mental capacity. 

How do I set up an ordinary power of attorney (OPA)? 

If you want to set up an OPA, contact your local Citizens Advice or get advice from a solicitor – there's no standard form to complete, but rather a particular wording that must be used.

If you're married or in a civil partnership, you may have assumed that your spouse or civil partner would automatically be able to make decisions about your finances or your health and care if there comes a time when you can no longer do so. But without an LPA, your spouse or civil partner doesn't have this authority.

How do I set up a power of attorney?

When you hear people talking about power of attorney, they're likely talking about lasting power of attorney. That's why in this section, we've outlined the process for setting up a lasting power of attorney. 

  1. Firstly, you'll need to get the LPA forms and an information pack from the Office of the Public Guardian. You can either or order them by calling 0300 456 0300. Alternatively, you can set up an LPA .
  2. If you're happy to, you can fill out the forms yourself. But be careful – mistakes might mean your LPA is rejected and you need to pay a fee later to reapply. The Office of the Public Guardian have a step-by-step guide to completing the forms or you can call them for assistance on 0300 456 0300.  
  3. You'll then need to sign the completed forms and send them to the Office of the Public Guardian. If you've downloaded the forms online or used the online service, you'll need to print them out before signing them. 
  4. Then, you need to have your LPA signed by a 'certificate provider' – this is someone who confirms that you understand what the LPA is and that you haven’t been put under any pressure to sign it. The certificate provider must either be someone you've known well for at least 2 years or a professional person, such as a doctor, social worker or solicitor. Certain people aren't allowed to be your certificate provider – including your partner or any other family members. 
  5. Lastly, register the LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian – you cannot use your LPA until registration is complete, which can take several weeks. You can register your LPA if you have the mental capacity to do so. If you sign an LPA while you still have mental capacity but lose capacity before registering it, your attorney can register it for you. 

Do I need a solicitor to set up a lasting power of attorney (LPA)?

While you don't have to use a solicitor to create an LPA, it could prevent problems later on – especially if you're unsure of the process or your affairs are complex. It's more costly than filling the forms yourself, but you might find that the reassurance of having professional advice is worth it. 

The costs for setting up an LPA can vary a lot from solicitor to solicitor, so it's a good idea to call several firms for quotes before you choose. 

Alzheimer's Society also provide a digital assistance service to help people fill out the LPA forms – if you don't feel able to complete the forms yourself or don't have access to the internet, for example. To sign up, call their support line on 0333 150 3456.

Office of the Public Guardian contact information

Telephone: 0300 456 0300

Email: customerservices@publicguardian.gov.uk

Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm (except Wednesday, when lines are open 10am to 5pm).

How much does it cost to set up a lasting power of attorney?

Registering an LPA costs £82. If you're registering 2 LPAs at the same time –  one for financial decisions and one for health and care decisions – then you'd need to pay £82 for each LPA, so £164 in total. 

However, if you're on a low annual income (under £12,000), you might be eligible for a 50% discount, and if you're receiving certain income-related benefits you won't have to pay anything at all. 

Who should I choose as my attorney?

You could choose someone you're close to, such as a family member or friend. Or you could choose a professional, such as a solicitor. It's important to be sure that whoever you choose will make decisions in your best interests – for more information on your 'best interests', see the FAQ section at the bottom of the page.

It’s also important that you give the person you ask to be your attorney time to think about the role and responsibilities, to make sure they feel comfortable doing it.

Whoever you choose, your attorney needs to be 18 or over, and they can't be a professional care worker apart from in exceptional circumstances (for example, if they're your only relative). There are other restrictions on who you can choose to be your attorney. For example, an attorney for financial decisions cannot be bankrupt.

How many attorneys can I have? 

You can appoint as many attorneys as you like. It can be a good idea to appoint more than one attorney, but if you do, you must decide how they're going to make decisions. They can make decisions:

  • jointly, meaning they must make all decisions together
  • jointly and severally, meaning they may act together or separately, as they choose.

Or you may want to specify that attorneys must act jointly for specific decisions, such as selling a house, but they can act jointly and severally for all other decisions.

You can also appoint replacement attorneys, in case someone you've chosen becomes unable to act on your behalf, for example if they die or lose mental capacity.

Do I need to pay my attorney?

Your attorney can claim back out-of-pocket expenses they incur as part of the role – such as travel or postage costs. They can claim these from your money, and they must keep an account of the expenses and any relevant receipts.

But usually your attorney can’t claim for time spent carrying out their duties unless they're a professional attorney, such as a solicitor. Given that professional attorneys charge for their time, it's important to consider the costs carefully before you choose an attorney.

There is, however, an exception: a non-professional attorney can be paid for their duties if the person who set up the power of attorney specified that they should in the instructions part of the LPA form.

How should my attorney make decisions?

Your attorney must understand and follow certain principles, which are set out in the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and its code of practice.

Your attorney should:

  • Assume you have mental capacity unless shown otherwise. Your attorney must only make decisions on your behalf if it can be shown you don't have mental capacity.
  • Help you make a decision. You must be given as much practical help as possible to make your own decision before anyone decides you’re unable to. For example, if you’re better able to understand things at a particular time of day, you should be helped to make a decision then. Or if you're better able to understand or communicate using pictures or sign language, then this should be supported.
  • Avoid making assumptions based on 'unwise decisions'. You shouldn’t be treated as unable to make a decision just because you make a decision that others might consider unwise or eccentric.
  • Make the least restrictive decision. Anyone making a decision for you should consider all the options and choose the one that's the least restrictive of your rights and freedoms.
  • Act in your best interests. Your attorney must consider a range of factors and reach a balanced conclusion about what decision is the right one for you. For more information about what your 'best interests' are, see the FAQ section at the bottom of the page.

What should I do if I'm having problems with my attorney?

If you're worried that your attorney isn't acting in your best interests, or that someone else's attorney isn't acting in their best interests, contact the Office of the Public Guardian. They have a responsibility to investigate allegations of mistreatment or fraud. If necessary, they can also report concerns to the police or social services. You can get in touch with the Office of the Public Guardian by calling 0300 456 0300 or by emailing them on customerservices@publicguardian.gov.uk

If you're concerned that abuse or neglect is taking place and you want to talk to someone about it confidentially, contact the Hourglass helpline on 0808 808 8141. Alternatively, contact the local council's safeguarding team. 

If you're worried that you or someone else is in immediate danger, contact the police on 999

The same applies if you have concerns about a deputy. 

Find out more about deputies

Frequently asked questions about power of attorney (FAQs)

Can I use a digital version of my LPA?

The government website has an online service that gives you and your attorney(s) access to a digital version of an LPA using an online account with a secure access code. This allows people or organisations like banks to check that the LPA is valid. For example, your attorney could use the digital version of your LPA to confirm that they're acting on your behalf with a valid LPA with your bank or energy company.  

This online service isn't available for LPAs registered before 1 January 2016.

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How do I make changes to my LPA?

You generally can't make changes to your LPA after it's been registered. It may be possible to remove one of your attorneys, but it's important to seek advice from the Office of the Public Guardian before doing so, because removing an attorney may cause your LPA to end.

If you have mental capacity, you can also cancel (or 'revoke') your LPA.

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How can my attorney be sure they're acting in my best interests?

Your attorney must always make the decision that's in your 'best interests'. This means that they must: 

  • act in your best interests, not in their own or anyone else's, and not take advantage to gain benefit for themselves or allow personal interests to conflict with their duties as your attorney
  • do everything possible to enable you to express your preferences and participate in the decision-making process
  • consider your past and present feelings, especially any wishes you put in an advance statement
  • consider any of your belefs and values that may influence the decision
  • talk to other people, such as your family, carers or friends, who know about your feelings, beliefs and values and might be able to suggest what would be in your best interests
  • respect your right to privacy at all times, recognising that it might not be appropriate to share information about you with people
  • know about any exceptions, such as if you've made an advance decision to refuse medical treatment.

Your attorney must weigh up these factors in order to reach a balanced decision about what's in your best interests.

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Last updated: Jul 12 2024

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