Power of Attorney is a legal document whereby one person (the "Donor") gives another person or persons (the "Attorney") the power to act on his or her behalf with regard to his or her property and financial affairs.
The most common types of Power of Attorney in England and Wales are:
Ordinary Power of Attorney - which can be general or limited to specific affairs
Enduring Power of Attorney - which can be used in the event of the Donor's mental incapacity.
Usually, an Ordinary Power of Attorney is created for a set period of time in cases where the Donor is going abroad or is unable to act for some other reason and wishes someone else to have the authority to act on his or her behalf. An Ordinary Power of Attorney will usually end either at a specified time or upon the request of the Donor at any time using a Deed of Revocation and will automatically be revoked if the Donor loses mental capacity. There is no requirement for the Ordinary Power of Attorney to be registered.
In contrast, an Enduring Power of Attorney allows the Donor to appoint one or more people ("Attorneys") to manage their property and financial affairs either immediately or at a future date. An Attorney does not have to register the Enduring Power of Attorney in order to use it. If, however, the Attorney wishes to use the power at a time after there is reason to believe that the Donor is, or is becoming mentally incapable of managing his or her financial affairs the Attorney must register the Enduring Power of Attorney.
A Power of Attorney is a relatively simple document by which you give another person authority to act on your behalf and to sign documents, such as cheques, in exactly the same way as if you were doing it yourself. It is used in situations where someone will not be available or is unable to undertake their own affairs and wants someone else to do it for them. Going aboard for a time and wanting your parents to look after your affairs is a classic example.
The 'grantor' - the person making the appointment - has the right to give the attorney as much or as little power as he or she thinks necessary. So you can grant someone a general power of attorney giving them the right in effect to do everything that you can do in law or a limited power which authorises them to do only certain things on your behalf.
You can appoint any competent adult to be your attorney. The most important thing to remember is that they must be someone you trust such as a family member who is willing to do the job for you. There is no restriction on the number of people you can appoint and it can be sensible to appoint two on an either/or basis. This way, if the first named attorney is not available - perhaps they are ill or away - the second can act for you.
Granting someone power of attorney takes nothing away from your own right to deal with your own money. It merely gives similar rights to another person. Your attorney will bind you by his or her actions, and must give you full details of all he or she does for you. And you can withdraw the power at any time in writing.
Making a power of attorney is a simple and inexpensive process, which can be completed very quickly. I would contact two or three solicitors in your area, ask them what they would charge and compare costs. It is likely to be in the region of £50-£150 depending on how straightforward your wishes are.