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The function of a Power of Attorney in the coronavirus pandemic

Making decisions is part of everyday life; from where we go when we step out the front door to who comes to visit us in our homes. You rarely consider a time when these choices will be made for you, and yet, the measures implemented as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis have left us incapable of planning our next move.

During this time, it is crucial to focus on areas of your life which you can control and ensure that your future is in line with your wishes. Setting up a Power of Attorney is a fantastic tool which provides you with the power to act early and be in charge of what happens to you.

Our team at Boyce Kelly are available to assist you despite the current circumstance. You can get in touch with us by calling 074 98 90190 or by completing the online enquiry form, and one of our lawyers will get back to you as soon as possible.

How can a Power of Attorney help during the crisis?

Firstly, it’s important to understand the different types of Power of Attorney available in Ireland, what powers are exercised from each, and how they could give you temporary or permanent assistance during the coronavirus.

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that lets you (the donor) appoint one or more representatives (the attorney) to help you make decisions or to make decisions on your behalf. Depending on the kind of Power of Attorney you set up, the person you appoint as your attorney can help with your short term or long term financial and health care plans.

I am self-isolating and need help quickly – what can I do?

During the pandemic, a Power of Attorney can be useful if you want someone to look after your finances temporarily. If you fall under the ‘high risk’ category and have to self-isolate, it may be worth speaking to loved ones about setting up a Power of Attorney. This would allow you to get the help you need in the interim.

However, you should be aware that a Power of Attorney is only valid while you have mental capacity. Therefore, your appointed individual cannot help with decisions if you lose capacity.

The benefits of an Enduring Power of Attorney

If you are looking to protect yourself entirely and ensure decisions made about your life are based on what you want, an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) is crucial. EPAs can cover health and welfare, property and finances.

If you would like to ensure your wishes are followed in terms of your advanced care plan, get in touch today to discuss setting up an EPA.

What does an EPA cover?

An EPA can cover health, welfare, property and financial affairs. You should note that this will only be activated when you no longer have capacity to manage your own affairs but you must put arrangements it in place while you do still have capacity to do so..

An EPA allows your chosen person, once it’s activated, to make decisions about your health, welfare, property and financial affairs on your behalf, for example, dealing with a nursing home, managing a bank account, paying bills, or selling your home.

How do I set up an EPA and respect social distancing measures?

Signing and witnessing EPAs follows a very similar process as Wills. Under current laws, a Power of Attorney must be witnessed by two independent adults and, as of yet, this requirement has been given little leniency to account for the current circumstances.

If you are considering setting up an EPA during the lockdown, the process will need to be carefully planned to ensure you do not go against government guidelines of social distancing.

For EPAs to be valid, the document must be signed by:

  • The donor (you)
  • The attorney(s) (person(s) who you want to look after your affairs)
  • The witnesses
  • Your solicitor
  • Your doctor

Your doctor must be satisfied that you have the mental capacity to execute the EPA and that you understand the effect of creating the power. Therefore, it is vitally important that you contact your doctor first, before you sign the document to make sure he/she is satisfied to say that this is the case and that they are prepared to certify this Your doctor will want to examine you for this purpose. He/she may be prepared to do so over video conference in the current lockdown but this will be a matter for your own doctor.

The document will be signed by you first, and then passed on to the attorney (s). In light of the pandemic, all of this could take place via video conferencing facilities, with the EPA posted to your attorney who can have a family member as their witness.

Please note, your solicitor must be fully satisfied you are not being subjected to any pressure to sign an EPA and that you understand what powers you are bestowing by signing the document. If your lawyer confirms you made the EPA by choice, they will sign.

Once your doctor has medically examined you, he/she will complete the relevant part of the document and return to your solicitor.

Your solicitor will then send the Notice of Execution by you to each Notice Party and swear an affidavit that the Notices were served.

How long will it take for my Enduring Power of Attorney to be activated?

An EPA must be registered with the Wards of Courts Office. There is a procedure to be followed by your attorney(s) and solicitor, including the medical opinion of two independent doctors.

In these unusual times, you must be prepared for all eventualities. To start setting up your Enduring Power of Attorney today, speak with one of our lawyers. 

Get in touch with our Power of Attorney solicitors in Donegal now

The COVID-19 pandemic highlights how easily our power to make decisions can be stripped from us at a moment’s notice. With the help of a Power of Attorney/Enduring Power of Attorney, you can ensure that your wishes are followed should you lose any kind of control in your future. Do not delay, get in touch with our Estate Planning team today on 074 98 90190 for continued support through this unprecedented time.

This guide does not constitute legal advice and is provided for general information purposes only. If you require specific legal advice you should contact one of our lawyers who can advise you based on your own circumstances.

Please note this information is accurate as of 26th April 2020  and is subject to change as official guidance is adapted to reflect the implications of the virus.

 

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