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What is a power of attorney?

Powers of attorney

Powers of attorney (PoAs) are documents that you use to give another person (called your 'attorney') the right to manage affairs on your behalf. The person creating the power of attorney is known as the 'donor'.

In order to create a valid PoA, the donor must have the capacity to appoint an attorney. Capacity, in this context, has a special legal meaning that is related to the ability to understand the implications or consequences of your actions as opposed to simply being able to do something. Legal capacity is discussed in the What is mental capacity? section. If the donor does not have the mental capacity to create a PoA, it will be ruled invalid.

Who can be an attorney?

Anyone who has the mental capacity to be an attorney can act as an attorney. This can include your partner, a relative or friend. However, in a lasting power of attorney (LPA), your attorney must be over the age of 18 and, if dealing with your property and affairs, may not be an undischarged or interim bankrupt.

If you wish to cancel a power of attorney

You can cancel a PoA (How to revoke a power of attorney) whilst you are still of sound mind. However, if an LPA has been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) (What is the Public Guardian?), and you then lose the capacity to manage your own affairs, only the Court of Protection (COP) (What is the Court of Protection?) has the power to cancel the document.

Different types of powers of attorney

This article contains information about England & Wales only. There are different types of PoA in Scotland and Northern Ireland. If you wish to create PoAs in either jurisdiction, we recommend you read the article on Scotland (Choosing a power of attorney) and the article on Northern Ireland (Choosing a power of attorney).

There are different types of PoA, depending on your circumstances and location. If you are looking to create a PoA in England & Wales, you can find out more by reading the article on the different types of powers of attorney available in England & Wales (Choosing a power of attorney).

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