Enduring Power of Attorney
An Enduring Power of Attorney (or EPA)is a private legally binding document that is created which enables appointed persons to manage various aspects of care and/or finances (called “the Attorneys”) if a person becomes mentally incapable of managing their own affairs.
The person making their EPA (called “the donor”) can decide what powers the attorneys will have, which may include personal care decisions and/or financial aspects of the donor’s affairs. An EPA may never need to be registered as some people live out their full lives maintaining their mental capacity until the end, but its there in case it’s needed. It has no legal effect and cannot be acted upon by the attorneys unless the donor becomes medically certified as incapable of looking after themselves or their affairs and the EPA is subsequently registered in the court offices.
Putting in place an EPA can be just as important and reassuring to a person as making a valid Will. An EPA is a legally binding document which allows the donor to choose whom they wish to look after their affairs and make decisions on their behalf, should they become mentally incapable of doing so themselves during their lifetime.
Wardship/Wards of Court
If a person is or is becoming mentally incapable of looking after his or her affair and does not have Enduring Power of Attorney in place, an application can be made to the President of the High Court to have the person made a Ward of Court. An Order can be made to take that person into wardship and appoint a person, called “a committee”, with whom the Wards of Court Office will liaise regarding decisions to be made about the Ward.
The application to have someone made a Ward of Court is generally made by a member of the person’s family, although not always.
Unlike an Enduring Power of Attorney, where the donor has decided who is to look after their affairs by way of a private, legally binding document, Wardship is a public matter, administered by the Court.
The Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015 will eventually replace the current Ward of Courts system with a Decision Support Service.