I have been given power of attorney, what does this mean?

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If someone you are close to is planning ahead, getting older, or has been diagnosed with an illness that might result in them being unable to make decisions for themselves, they might choose to make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)*.

If you have been asked to be someone’s attorney in this situation it means that, in the event of their loss of capacity, you would be responsible for, and would have the legal authority to make, decisions in relation to their property and finances and/or their health and welfare.

As an attorney you would have a legal responsibility to act in the donor’s best interests and, where possible, help them to make their own decisions.

Being an attorney can involve making some difficult decisions and may be quite time consuming so before you agree to take on this responsibility, it is worth considering exactly what may be required of you and whether you feel you are capable of taking this on.

Would you be the only attorney?

You may have been one of a few people asked to be an attorney, in which case the responsibility will be spread across more people, however in this case the person making the LPA will have to decide whether they want each individual attorney to have the power to act separately (make decisions on your own) or jointly (where all of you have to agree on a decision). If you have any concerns about working with the other attorneys you should voice these before agreeing to act as attorney.

Types of Lasting Power of Attorney

In England and Wales there are two types of LPA – Property and Financial Affairs and Health and Welfare – and you may have been asked to be attorney for either one or both of these. We have listed some of the responsibilities for each of these below, and links are given to guidance provided by the Office of the Public Guardian for England and Wales (OPG) .

Property and Financial Affairs LPA

With a Property and Financial Affairs LPA, you will be responsible for all the financial matters of the person with impaired capacity. This means looking after their money and making sure all their bills are paid. You will be responsible for their investments, property, money and other assets. Your responsibilities would include:

  • Writing cheques and paying bills
  • Selling or renting property
  • Carrying out their trade or business
  • Honouring any contracts they may have set up
  • Conducting legal proceedings on their behalf
  • Making gifts on their behalf on customary occasions to their friends and family, eg birthday or Christmas presents
  • Making gifts to any charity which expected gifts from the person, eg keeping up a monthly standing order they had set up

Health and Welfare LPA

If you have a Health and Welfare LPA, you will be responsible for the welfare of the person with impaired capacity. This means looking after their health, personal care, wellbeing and quality of life. You will be responsible for their accommodation and their physical and mental welfare and will be able to make choices about:

  • Where they live
  • Day-to-day things like their diet, dress and daily routine
  • Whether a care home or a nursing home is best for them, and which one
  • Whether they can continue to live at home with help from social services
  • If they need to receive healthcare treatment
  • Whether they should stop receiving a particular healthcare treatment.

* This article applies to English and Welsh LPAs. Different rules apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland


An article of this kind can never provide a complete guide to the law in these areas, which may be subject to change from time to time. The opinions and suggestions made within this article should not be interpreted as specific advice in relation to any particular individual or individuals. Neither STEP, the article author or their firm accept responsibility for any loss occasioned by someone acting or refraining to act on the basis of the opinions and suggestions contained in this article. More