What is a Power of Attorney and why do you need one?

A power of attorney (POA) sounds like something just for lawyers, but it’s not. It’s an important document that everyone over the age of 18 should think about. 

This blog post will outline what it means to give someone an enduring power of attorney and why you should do it. 

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney, or POA, is a legal document that gives a person (who is over the age of 18) power to act on your behalf in certain circumstances. It doesn’t give them the power to control your finances or your life. Instead, it acts to legally empower them to carry out your wishes while you’re still alive but you’re unable to do so – or just want to delegate that work. 

Your power of attorney can be revoked at any time (find out more about this below). 

Common types of POA

These are the most common types of POA that we see:

Enduring Medical Power of Attorney

This POA gives your attorney(s) the power to act on your behalf in relation to medical decisions. It usually considers circumstances where an accident or illness means that you’re no longer able to make medical decisions, so it empowers someone you trust to make those decisions for you – without having to go to court to argue for that right. 

Enduring Financial Power of Attorney

A POA (Financial) gives your attorney(s) the power to make financial decisions on your behalf. You can write it so that it only comes into effect if you’re incapacitated or at a certain time. 

Powers of Attorney for Specific Purpose

These are commonly used by business people who want someone to be able to sign company documents on behalf of the company. Though, they can be used for things like authorising someone to buy a house on your behalf while you travel. 

Are Wills and POAs the same?

No, wills and POAS are very different documents. POAs are only valid while you are alive. As soon as you die, your POA no longer works and your Will kicks into effect. 

That’s why lawyers always recommend that you have a binding Will and binding POA. 

You can find out more about Wills in our FREE Wills & Estate Planning Fact Sheet. 

Who can act as your attorney?

Your attorney can be any person over the age of 18 or a company or organisation. 

Some people choose close friends or family members, some choose their lawyers, others choose private companies that exist for this purpose. 

It’s all about your personal preference. 

What does it mean to give joint and several powers of attorney?

You can choose to appoint more than one person as your attorney. 

If you do this, you need to decide on how much power each individual has to act alone on your behalf. 

If you want both attorneys to sign off on every act they undertake on your behalf, you will appoint them as joint attorneys. 

If you want them to be able to individually sign off on acts undertaken on your behalf, you should give them powers of attorney that are joint and several. 

There are a significant number of rules and restrictions like this, so it’s worth consulting a lawyer if you’re thinking about granting power of attorney to two individuals.

Book your FREE consultation.

Do you need a Power of Attorney?

You should consider getting or reviewing your Power of Attorney (Financial) whenever you achieve major milestones, like these: 

  • You get married or enter a de facto relationship;
  • You buy or rent a house; 
  • You make plans to travel abroad; and/or
  • You move away.

We believe everyone over the age of 18 should have a Power of Attorney (Medical) that allows someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf in the case of an accident or illness that leaves you incapacitated. It will save your loved ones added heartache if something happens to you. 

Woman who needs Power of Attorney (Medical) laying in brightly lit hospital room

Power of Attorney Kit

You can buy power of attorney kits from Australia Post or download them from websites like State Trustees DIY Power of Attorney Kit ($31.50). The Law Depot even claims to customise POAs for free.

These are great, in theory. The issue is, when you give someone a power of attorney you’re giving someone complex legal powers over your body and your finances. If you do this via a document that you draw up at home using a kit or template, there’s a very large chance that it won’t mean what you want it to mean – in a legal sense. 

POA law is complex and the stakes are quite high, so it’s worth having an experienced lawyer on your side to explain everything to you. 

Revoking a Power of Attorney

You can revoke your POA at any time, so you don’t have to worry about someone taking over your finances if you have a falling out. 

Many people choose their spouse as their POA, so it’s important to review your documents after you divorce, separate, or break up. 

A POA is also automatically revoked when you die. When you die the person you’ve named as executor in your Will is granted the power to act on behalf of your estate. 

Benefits of having a Sydney lawyer draft your Power of Attorney

With a lawyer’s help, your power of attorney will be more powerful – and completely tailored to your unique situation. 

An experienced lawyer will ensure

  • Any limitations you want can be written in a way that’s legally binding
  • You’ll understand the legal meaning of what you’re signing
  • Your POA will be signed & witnessed in a legally binding way
  • The POA will work the way you want it to in practice
  • You know about whether you need to register your POA with Land & Property Services NSW

There are specific requirements if the person you elect to act as your attorney needs to deal with real estate located in NSW. In that case, the POA will need to be registered with Land & Property Services NSW

Fixed Fee POAs from Experienced Sydney Lawyers

At Altria Law, we want you to feel like you’re in control in your legal dealings. 

That’s why we offer a free assessment of your case and a free first consultation

You should come to us knowing what you’re paying for any why – so you’re not paying for anything you don’t need or don’t want. 

We don’t want you to worry about how much POAs cost. So, we offer fixed fee arrangements to draw up your documents and to explain them to you. 

Get in touch to find out more.

Aziz and the Altria Team