Of course, we all think that “it will never happen to me” and, chances are, it will not. BUT, if it does, you want to know that you and all things dear to you are taken care of, should you find yourself in the hospital, temporarily impaired and unable to make decisions.
In Australia, an “Attorney” is not a lawyer; it is an agent(s) who has been authorized to act on behalf of another person. It is that simple.
You can ensure that your wishes will be taken care of by someone of your choosing by having a Power of Attorney document in place. If you do not have an official Power of Attorney document in place, you could possibly find that the people you wish to make decisions on your behalf are not given the opportunity. Worse still, there is a chance that the Public Trustee could be given that power to make your decisions.
The Public Trustee is a self-funded organization who are often appointed by the Civil and Administrative Tribunal as a financial or health administrator for those who have temporary or permanent impaired capacity or no one else to help them manage their affairs. In addition, they will charge fees for this service.
Therein lies the reason why you need to seriously consider having a Power of Attorney in place. Each State will have different rules and documentation governing these.
In Victoria, there can be three types of Powers of Attorney.
- General Non-Enduring Power of Attorney
Generally used for making decisions when you are not available such as being overseas.
- Enduring Power of Attorney
A very important and serious document to assist you, especially if you no longer have the proper capacity to manage your medical and financial requirements,
- Supportive Power of attorney
Your attorney or lawyer makes decisions in conjunction with you as a supporter. There are specific monetary limits and only one attorney can be appointed.
Who can be an Attorney?
An Attorney can be a friend over the age of 18, or someone from your family and friends or a specific professional person such as a lawyer. You can appoint up to 4 people to act in this capacity. The Attorney is obliged to act in your best interests and cannot use your assets for their own benefit.
Forms for making a Power of Attorney are available from The Law Institute of Victoria .and the Office of the Public Advocate website. It is not essential that a lawyer prepare your Power of Attorney unless you have a very complicated situation which involves a business, etc. There is no charge for the form – all you need are two persons to witness your signature.
You may cancel or change the Power of Attorney at any time at your discretion.