The Legal Clinic: September 2018

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What do you need to know if you are given the power of attorney?

You make decisions for the Principal (the person who appoints you) when it is no longer possible for him/her to make decisions or carry out property and financial tasks on the Principal’s behalf.

What can you do?

You can make decisions and take actions in relation to property and finances, healthcare, personal care and medical research matters.

Your obligations

You are in a relationship of trust and confidence with your Principal. You must act honestly, carefully and in the best interests of the Principal and exercise reasonable care when making decisions. This may mean seeking professional advice. You must avoid acting where your interests conflict with those of your Principal.

When can you start making decisions?

You may only start making decisions for the Principal if they have “impaired decision-making capacity”. This means that when the Principal cannot make a specific personal decisions themselves (for example because they are in a coma), the attorney must decide. For property and financial matters, it will either commence when the Principal has impaired decision-making capacity or immediately (once you sign the document). If it commences immediately then you must only do things that the Principal has asked you to do, unless the Principal has impaired decision-making capacity, in which case you can make decisions for them.

What to consider

You must try to make the decision that the Principal would have made in the circumstances. You should consider any wishes or directions given to you by the Principal, any wishes that the Principal has previously discussed with you, or what is in their best interests.

Who to involve?

If more than one person is appointed as an attorney, the Enduring Power of Attorney document will specify how decisions must be made by the attorneys. For example, this may be together or separately, or that different Attorneys may make decisions for different areas.

When do you stop?

Your role as an attorney ends if the Enduring Power of Attorney is (revoked) by the Principal, the Principal dies, by operation of the law (for example where the Principal gets married), or where a legal tribunal orders other arrangements.

If you do not execute your role properly, you might be subject to criminal or civil proceedings and be required to compensate your Principal for any loss they suffer. (Online sources) (

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