Depending on your personal situation, Power of Attorney becomes a crucial document impacts who can make decisions on your behalf. For a number of reasons, you might need others to make financial or health-related decisions for you. In that case, this document helps to transfer your decision-making ability to someone you trust.
Of course, you need to get it right. Power of attorney is legally binding, so anytime you think that you might need to invoke it, it’s vital to make the right decision for yourself and your family. To get the right power of attorney document in Victoria for your needs, here are 4 questions you should answer.
1) What Do I need Power of Attorney For?
First, you should understand just why a power of attorney document might be necessary. A variety of reasons may cause you to transfer your decision-making power to another entity. But because it is legally binding, you have to understand the implications that come with this transfer.
Individuals in Victoria (and Australia as a whole) tend to tap into this option for one of three major reasons:
- Absence, such as a trip outside the country. In that case, the document gives a party you designate (the attorney) the ability to make decisions until you return.
- Illness. Some individuals designate power of attorney to help others make decisions during a time in which they have limited capabilities, especially due to illness or recovery.
- Planning ahead. At some point in our lives, our decision-making abilities become diminished. Power of attorney can help you plan for that time, designating an individual who will begin to start making decisions on your behalf once that time comes.
The various situations that fall under these three categories explain why more than one nuance of the concept exists. That’s why it’s just as crucial to ask yourself the second question:
2) What Decisions Can the Attorney Make on My Behalf?
That depends on the type of power of attorney you grant. Victoria distinguishes between non-enduring and enduring power of attorney. The difference is explained in the name: one is temporary, while the other is permanent. That, in turn, impacts the decisions your attorney can make on your behalf.
A non-enduring power of attorney document is typically used for specific decisions during which you can use additional help. These decisions can include:
- selling your house or property, with the help of a conveyancer.
- Operate your bank account or manage your financial affairs.
- Act on your behalf during a specific time frame, such as when you are overseas or in a hospital.
Enduring power of attorney, on the other hand, is permanent. Once the principal signs over decision-making power, the attorney has the ability to make decisions on the principal’s behalf until the document is withdrawn.
Enduring power of attorney can cover financial or personal decisions. A special, and separate, document needs to be prepared if it should cover medical decisions as well.
Another option is to appoint a person who will act as your supportive power of attorney. This person will not have the authority to make decisions without your input, but – as the name suggests – can assist you in communicating with businesses and gathering information on your behalf. Supportive attorneys, however, cannot assist you in real estate transactions, and their powers are automatically revoked when you lose your decision-making ability.
3) When Should I Involve a Lawyer in the Process?
When you are considering power of attorney of any kind, speaking with a lawyer early in the process makes sense. Professionals in the field will know exactly what you need to do in order to invoke power of attorney, but they can also help you decide just what type of attorney is best for your individual situation.
For that reason, it makes sense to partner with a lawyer as soon as you think about using this legal statue for your situation. Lawyers help you draft the documents while advising you on the various options and what your attorneys in these cases can and cannot do. Of course, they can also advise you on existing documents to make sure they are still within your wishes and change them as needed.
4) What Formal Requirements are Necessary in Victoria?
The exact documents to file for power of attorney depend on the type of document you intend to file. In Victoria, power of attorney requires a written document that falls within the guidelines set forth by the 2014 Powers of Attorney Act.
For enduring power of attorney documents, that means the presence of two adult witnesses, who will sign and date the documents in front of each other and the principal. One of these witnesses must either be a medical professional, or a lawyer or another individual authorized to witness the signing of an affidavit.
Of course, the attorney also has to be involved. They have to sign a statement of acceptance, ensuring they know all responsibilities involved in their role. In addition, attorneys have to keep a close record of every decision and transaction they make in their role as attorney for the principal who initiated the document.
Regardless of which exact type you choose, power of attorney is a powerful document that can help you navigate through difficult life decisions. You do, of course, have to make sure that you get it right. The above questions are a great start, helping you better understand the legal implications and steps needed to take advantage of power of attorney laws in Victoria.