What If I Am not Physically Able to Look After My Affairs?
The Public Trustee is allowed to manage only the estates of minors and only when appointed by the court. If you become physically disabled whether permanently or temporarily, the Public Trustee will not be able to handle your financial affairs for you. If you are physically disabled or expect to become physically disabled due to an illness or surgery or other reasons, you can appoint someone you trust to look after your financial affairs. This is called giving a power of attorney.
You can give a power of attorney over all or some of your affairs. The power of attorney over all of your affairs is called a general power of attorney. It is a very broad power with very few restrictions. A power of attorney, which is limited to certain purposes, is called a special power of attorney. For example, if you give your nephew the authority to make deposits and withdrawals on your bank account, this is a special power. Your nephew who held your power of attorney would not be entitled to open charge accounts in your name or enter into any other contracts on your behalf.
How Do I Make a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney is the authority given in writing by you to allow another person to enter into agreements or sign documents on your behalf. You may sometimes buy Power of Attorney forms in a stationery store. The forms must be signed before a witness and an affidavit must be made by the witness before a Commissioner for Oaths or a Notary Public to indicate that the witness saw you sign the form. A lawyer may also draft your power of attorney and witness your signature.
A power of attorney does not replace a will because the power only lasts as long as you are alive and mentally competent. However, under the Enduring Power of Attorney Act, there is also available an enduring power of attorney which allows you to extend the power of the attorney to continue to act for you in the event of incompetency. You can withdraw either the power of attorney or enduring power of attorney at any time. If you die, the power is automatically invalid. If you give someone one of these types of power of attorney and later withdraw it and look after your own affairs or pass the power of attorney on to another person, you will still be bound by any contracts, agreements, or debts that the person who held your power of attorney entered into on your behalf.