1. What is a general power of attorney?
A general power of attorney is a legal document that authorises another person to manage your legal and financial affairs on your behalf.
The person making the general power of attorney is called the principal and the appointed person is called the attorney.
A general power of attorney can take effect from when and for long you choose. It can be for a specified time only, or it can be indefinitely.
2. What power does it give?
The powers given to the attorney can be as extensive or as restrictive as you choose. For example, they can be responsible for all your financial and legal transactions including selling your house, or they can be responsible for only some, such as writing cheques and paying bills or signing a particular document.
3. What are the legal formalities?
For a general power of attorney to be valid, both the principal and the attorney both must be
- at least 18 years of age
- have sufficient mental capacity to fully understand the nature and meaning of the general power of attorney documents.
You don’t usually need a lawyer to make a general power of attorney unless your financial and legal matters are complex.
A general power of attorney form does not have to be signed in the presence of witnesses unless someone else has completed the form for you because you were physically incapable of doing so. If someone else has completed the form, it must be signed in the presence of two witnesses.
4. Who can I appoint?
You can appoint one or more people to be your attorney. If there are two or more attorneys, you can appoint them jointly or jointly and severally.
If you appoint your attorneys jointly, they must all agree about any decisions made on your behalf, and they must all sign any cheques and documents.
If you appoint your attorneys jointly and severally, any one of them can make any decisions and sign any cheques and documents, or they can all do so jointly.
5. Can I change my attorney?
If you want to appoint a new attorney, destroy the existing general power of attorney (if it isn’t already out of date), and notify the attorney and any other persons holding copies of the power of attorney that you are appointing a new person(s). Then, complete a new general power of attorney form showing the name(s) of the new attorney(s).
6. When does it cease?
A general power of attorney is revoked (cancelled) when
- the principal or attorney(s) dies
- the principal loses all decision-making capacity
- the principal cancels the power
7. From where can I obtain a form?
You can obtain paper copies of the general power of attorney form and the revocation form from larger newsagencies, law stationers, lawyers and the Office of the Public Advocate. Alternatively, you can download a form using this link. www.publicadvocate.vic.gov.au
Next Section: Enduring Power of Guardianship