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Martin Lewis: Do you have a Power of Attorney? It's crucial protection – not just for the elderly – and more important than a will

Do you have a Power of Attorney? MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis explains how this crucial protection works, why it's more important than a will, and how to get one in the latest episode of ITV's The Martin Lewis Money Show Live.

The video and transcript are below. For more information, read our Power of Attorney guide.

ITV's The Martin Lewis Money Show Live – Tuesday 21 November 2023

Martin Lewis explains why a Power of Attorney is crucial protection and more important than a will.
Embedded YouTube Video

From The Martin Lewis Money Show Live on Tuesday 21 November, courtesy of ITV. All rights reserved. Watch the full episode on ITVX.

Transcript of what Martin said on the show

Martin Lewis: "Really important, this; I think Power of Attorney is more important than a will. A will decides what happens to your assets if you die. Power of Attorney, what happens to your assets if you lose your faculties – you're still alive and you may have your own care and family that you need to look after, but you're no longer capable of doing it yourself.

"So it's a 'Lasting Power of Attorney'. Now, it used to be 'Enduring Power of Attorney'. In Scotland, it's 'Continuing Power of Attorney'."

Martin Lewis: 'I've had a Power of Attorney for a decade now. It's not just for the elderly'

"Power of Attorney. Right, this is where you nominate a friend or relative to take over your finances if you lose your faculties. Doing it does not mean you give up control now. It does not mean that. There are safeguards in place. You nominate other people to check whether it's right that you've lost your faculties or not, and don't think this is just for the elderly. I mean: accidents, stroke, early onset dementia.

"I actually – the other day I was talking to a young couple who were expecting their first child. They were talking about how they were helping their elderly relatives do a Power of Attorney. And I said: 'Have you done one?'

"And in the pause that followed, I said: 'This is what I want you to think of. Heaven forbid one of you were to have an accident and you lost your faculties. Are your finances such that only you individually – and most couples these days have separate finances – can access your finances?' And they both nodded: 'Yeah'.

"And I said: 'Well, in that case, if you were to lose your faculties and the other was locked out, what would the financial consequences be to the other partner?' They said it would be terrible. Well, you either need a Power of Attorney or you need to fundamentally reorganise the way that you do your finances.

"Power of Attorney is not just for the elderly. Everybody in this room should be considering one. I've had one for a decade now. I have no foreseeability of losing my faculties.

"You've got something?"

Jeanette Kwakye (Martin's co-host): "We have, from Fraser. Now, Fraser said: 'I did a Power of Attorney. The next week I ended up in hospital after a car crash. My Power of Attorney could deal with everything. They were amazing and it was worth every penny'. Just goes to show..."

Martin: "Not just for the elderly."

Jeanette: "Yeah."

'Without a Power of Attorney, sorting your finances is generally much harder'

Martin: "Without a Power of Attorney sorting your finances, it is generally much harder. Do not assume your family can access your funds – even to pay for your mortgage or your care if you need it. They'd need to apply via the Court of Protection or the equivalent in other countries. And I just get swamped with how long it takes, how expensive and how stressful it is. I bet you've got comments on that?"

Jeanette: "I have. And this is from Alex. This is heart-breaking, Martin. Alex says: 'When my wife was 33, she suffered a severe brain injury. We had no wills and no lasting Enduring Power of Attorney. I had to go to the Court of Protection with the help of a very expensive solicitor and take deputyship. It is a nightmare. Costs a lot of money. I wish we had done this before it was too late.' Really, really difficult situation."

Martin: "To face that and think he's having to deal with that at the same time as his wife's just had a brain injury. Power of Attorney is important. To get one, you apply via Gov.uk. It costs £82 in England and Wales, slightly more in Scotland, £151 in Northern Ireland. You can do it yourself if you're good and you have simple circumstances.

"If you really want to make sure you do it right, and if you can afford it – I would suggest you do – solicitors charge normally £200 to £500. You can get partial help, so you do it and they have legally qualified people who overlook it from Which? Wills, which is £99. But there are some websites you can get that for a little bit cheaper.

"Look, Power of Attorneys aren't perfect. They're not quick, but they are better than having nothing at all. I am, of course, talking about the financial Power of Attorney. There's one for health and welfare where you make the health and welfare decisions too. But obviously that's not my bag, but it's still important to look at."

Power of Attorney: You need to do what the person would have done if they still had their faculties

Jeanette: "And this is from Bill, Bill's based in Scotland. 'I am a Power of Attorney for my parent who has dementia and in a care home. I'm terrified of getting into trouble spending their money. But I would like to arrange Christmas monetary gifts for the children and grandchildren. What is deemed as acceptable?'"

Martin: "So, really interesting. How much room, Austin [referring to solicitor Austin Lafferty, who is appearing as an expert on this episode], does he have to make those decisions himself for his parent?"

Austin Lafferty: "Well, it needs to be reasonable. It needs to do what the adult would have done if she was still compos mentis ['of sound mind']. As long as it's normal gifts – Christmas is obviously a time for giving – and it's not trying to pockle a tax. It's not trying to do, you know, cover up for [a] care costs assessment. And it's not greed, then it should be OK.

"If in doubt, take advice from other members of the family. Let people know what you're doing. Note everything. My wife's a maths teacher, she says: 'Tell me what your working is to get to the result', and all of that is fine. Also, the Scottish Government has issued a code of conduct for attorneys, which you can get through the Office of the Public Guardian in Scotland. They're a fantastic organisation."

Martin: "And they've got a free helpline as well, I believe. Yeah. I mean, it's an interesting way to work it round, isn't it? The fact that he's asking that question in front of millions of people probably means he's not trying to be dodgy, because that would be pretty stupid."

How to protect yourself from someone abusing a Power of Attorney

"Just, turn it round, Melinda [referring to solicitor Melinda Giles, who is also appearing as an expert in this episode], for a second. People worried about getting Power of Attorney in case someone's trying to diddle them. What protections are in place for me from somebody trying to defraud me if they're my Power of Attorney?"

Melinda Giles: "Trying to make a fraudulent Lasting Power of Attorney for you?"

Martin: "No, they've already done the Lasting Power of Attorney – using my money in a way I wouldn't want it to be."

Melinda: "Well, you can notify people when you are making a Power of Attorney. So those people will be aware who your attorney is and can check out what's going on. If you then have concerns about the way someone is managing that money, you can make a report to the Office of the Public Guardian, slightly different in England."

Martin: "And the person you've notified could do it for you if you're no longer compos mentis?"

Melinda: "Anybody. Anybody concerned about the way someone's money is being dealt with can make that concern."

Martin: "So, I have Power of Attorney set up. I have a number of friends who are there, who should independently check that if that were to happen, it should be done right. And that's the way to go through.

"Let's move on quickly; once your Power of Attorney is active – so once a person is not compos mentis and you're having to do it for them – register with banks and services as soon as you can, don't wait until you need it, because it takes time.

"How you do that depends on when your Power of Attorney was registered:

  • "So if it's 2016 to 2020, set up an account on Gov.uk and then you get a code that you can give to the banks that lets them know you're legit Power of Attorney.
  • "If it was after that [2020], the activation key is actually on the registration letter, or if you don't have that, go to Gov.uk.
  • "If it was before [2016], or you're in Scotland and Northern Ireland – that's only for England and Wales [above] – you need a paper certificate. Give banks certified copies, not original. That basically means signed by a solicitor or signed by the relevant office. Don't do one at a time when you're going to get those, get them en masse. Otherwise it's an absolute – have you done this? [Referring to an audience member.] It's an absolute nightmare otherwise.

"If you're going into a branch as a Power of Attorney, book an appointment, make sure you allow time or ask them. Some of them have dedicated phone lines.

"I'm really pleased. The way they deal with Power of Attorney has improved a lot over recent years. Did a survey last year; 12,000 people who've got Power of Attorney – Lloyds, Halifax, TSB: 60% of people or more said they were 'great'. First Direct, Santander, Nationwide, NatWest: 50% said they were 'great'.

"You don't get 'great' in customer service surveys that much. So, that means that actually, and this is great for dealing with Power of Attorney, things are better than they used to be on that."

The difference between wills and Power of Attorney

Jeanette: "And James has got a question on just that. 'What is the difference between being Power of Attorney and executor of a will? Who has the power over a will if there are two people with the different responsibilities mentioned here?'"

Martin: "Forgive me being blunt, James. Power of Attorney; when you're alive. Executors; when you're dead."

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