This section contains information on powers of attorney in Northern Ireland. For information on other UK jurisdictions, read our articles onor , as appropriate.
At any stage in life people can become unable to manage their own affairs for a variety of reasons. They may be incapacitated by an accident, ill-health or the onset of mental illness. This makes the paying of bills and the managing of financial decisions difficult and in some cases impossible. It is therefore important to consider appointing an attorney under an enduring power of attorney before such an event occurs.
Power of attorney
A power of attorney is the formal authority under which a person gives authority to another to act on their behalf. For a power of attorney to be valid, it must be signed as a deed by the person giving the power (the 'donor') and those receiving the power (the 'attorneys') and witnessed by an independent witness. General powers of attorney don't need to be registered to be effective but enduring powers of attorney (EPA) do. EPAs are discussed in our '' and ' ' sections.
A copy that is certified as being a true copy of the original power of attorney by the person who gave it is proper proof of the original document.
Why is a power of attorney useful?
You can use a general power of attorney to give another person the right to act on your behalf while you have the mental capacity to do so yourself but are temporarily unable to attend to your affairs, for example because you're on holiday. With an enduring power of attorney you can give someone else the right to continue acting on your behalf if you become mentally incapable of managing your own affairs. It makes sense to consider appointing an attorney under an EPA before that day arrives because once someone has become mentally incapable they can't validly appoint an attorney.
Family and friends don't automatically have the right to take over. The EPA has been created to ensure that whilst you are of sound mind you can choose who you want to look after your affairs, if that becomes necessary at some point in the future.
If you have already made a Will, then an EPA will compliment this and help to reassure both you and your family that you have made detailed plans for the future.