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A Power of Attorney appoints a person you trust to act on your behalf with regards to assets and legal decisions. Your attorney is authorised to make decisions about any of your assets including property, bank accounts and investments. They are also given the ability to make legal decisions on your behalf.

The authority given by this document is powerful and wide ranging so it is essential to appoint someone you trust. A Power of Attorney is a vital estate planning document, in some circumstances, even more useful than a Will.

The document is particularly effective in circumstances where you are unable to make decisions for yourself or to attend to your financial and legal needs, be it through mental incapacity or something as simple as an overseas holiday. If you lose mental capacity without having appointed an attorney, the only alternative is an application to the Guardianship Division of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. These applications can be quite stressful for loved ones as they involve providing evidence on suitability of the person applying, attendance at a hearing, and can risk someone different to the person you would have chosen being appointed. In some circumstances it may not even be a friend or family member appointed, but instead the NSW Trustee and Guardian.

It is impossible to know when or if your Power of Attorney will need to be used. We consider it to be a one-off insurance document – if you need assistance in managing your affairs for any reason, someone else can step in, affording you the protection and peace of mind, knowing that someone will be there for you, able to act.

New regulations have made the document more consistent with the Appointment of Enduring Guardian form (another important estate planning document). The format now provides for the appointment of substitute attorneys within the same document – previously only possible through multiple documents. Two-tiered appointments are useful in comprehensive estate planning as it allows for substitute attorneys to step in in certain circumstances.

The updated form gives clearer instructions in relation to how and when decisions can be made on your behalf.

The updated format brings further uniformity to how these documents are prepared, however individual circumstances still require the forms to be customised to your needs. Additional powers and restrictions in relation to superannuation, family trusts, looking after financial dependents (eg a partner and/or children) and gifting need to be considered. At Kells, we spend the time getting to know your circumstances and providing you with the estate planning to meet your needs now and into the future.

Further information can be found on our website or by requesting an information brochure from one of our branches. To discuss your own circumstances and your need for a Power of Attorney, please contact Kells to arrange an appointment.