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What’s the difference between Power of Attorney and a Will?

Power of attorney helps this young woman make decisions for her mother.
AUTHOR: Graham Southorn

There is a very simple difference between Wills and Power of Attorney. A Will applies after your death while Power of Attorney is only active while you’re alive.

Essentially, Wills deal with money. They dispose of your money, possessions and other assets after you die. It’s true that they do have a few other functions, for example you can appoint guardians for minor children or give someone the right to live in your house.

But all of this happens after your death, when you won’t be around to see it. That makes it doubly important to make a Will that looks after the people you love.

Power of Attorney, on the other hand, applies while you’re still alive. These documents are often associated with medical conditions such as dementia, when people lose the ability to make decisions for themselves and need help from others.

But they are not useful only for people with degenerative disorders. Someone in a coma for a temporary period would lose the ability to make decisions. Plus, they can help with day-to-day life. If you can’t get out, for instance, your attorney could go to the shops for you and use your bank card to pay.

What types of Power of Attorney are there?

There are three types you might come across.

Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs)

Two factors make LPAs the “gold standard”:

  1. They are subject to legal safeguards governing how your attorneys can act.
  2. You can get an LPA for health-related matters as well as financial matters.

If you lose mental capacity:

  • The LPA for health and welfare can be used if you lose mental capacity (but not before).
  • The LPA for property and financial affairs can be used both before and after you lose mental capacity, or just after, depending on how you set it up.

You can find out more about Lasting Power of Attorney here.

Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA)

This type was replaced by LPAs in 2007. You could only get an EPA for property, money and financial affairs. If you have an EPA now, you can either continue to use it or cancel it and set up an LPA.

If you lose mental capacity, your attorneys have to apply to register it.

Ordinary Power of Attorney (OPA)

An OPA is active immediately. Also called a General Power of Attorney, it is useful if you want to get someone to manage your affairs on a temporary basis. You can revoke it if you don’t need it anymore. For example, you might be:

  • Unwell
  • Recovering from an injury
  • Travelling overseas

However, since it does not have to be registered with a government department, so there are no legal safeguards to prevent it from being misused. Having 100% trust in the person you appoint as an attorney is essential.

If you lose mental capacity, a OPA can no longer be used.

Where can I get them from?

Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA)

LPAs are available direct from the Office of the Public Guardian or from Will writing companies or solicitors. The Office of the Public Guardian charges an application fee of £82 per document.

Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA)

You can no longer obtain an EPA.

General/Ordinary Power of Attorney

An OPA is available from a legal documents company or a solicitor. We strongly recommend taking legal advice, due to the possibility of it being misused.

Why should I get Lasting Powers of Attorney from you?

There are a few reasons:

  • You may find the LPA forms confusing because there is quite a bit of legal jargon. We can explain what it means.
  • We can ensure that they are set up in the right way to meet your needs, to ensure that they can be used effectively. If you choose the wrong option, they may not work in the way you intended and it may be too late to change them.
  • Certain sections of the LPA forms recommend that you take legal advice.
  • We save you time. We visit your attorneys, or post forms to them, and ensure that they are signed and witnessed correctly.
  • We can save you money. If you make a mistake, the OPG may ask you to pay a repeat application fee.

To find out more about these documents, request a callback by clicking the button below.

For further information, download free factsheets on Wills, Trusts, Inheritance Tax, Lasting Power of Attorney and more.

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The information contained in these articles is for general interest purposes only. We take every precaution to ensure that the information is correct at the time of publishing but errors can occur. Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, there may be omissions or inaccuracies in the information. Bristol Wills & Estate Planning Ltd is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for any results obtained from the use of this information. You should never rely on the information in these articles as a substitute for professional legal advice, whether from Bristol Wills & Estate Planning or any other legal service or professional.

Need advice on Wills or estate planning in Bristol? Request a callback within 48 hours.