Joint vs. Severally Appointed Power of Attorney

joint vs severally | Dandenong Family Lawyers

A Power of Attorney (POA)is a legal document that grants one or more individuals the authority to make decisions on your behalf. This becomes particularly important if you lose the capacity to make these decisions yourself. The scope of these decisions can range from financial matters to healthcare choices.

Joint vs. Severally Appointed Power of Attorney:

Joint Appointments:

  • In a joint appointment, attorneys must make decisions together. This approach ensures checks and balances, as no single attorney can decide without the agreement of the others.
    • However, this can be cumbersome in situations where quick or individual decisions are necessary. If one attorney is unable to act (due to illness, death, or other reasons), the power for all cases, potentially leading to complications.

Severally Appointments:

  • When attorneys are appointed severally, each can act independently of the others. This setup offers greater flexibility, allowing decisions to be made more swiftly.
    • The downside is the reduced oversight, as each attorney can make significant decisions without consulting the others.

Joint and Several Appointments:

  • This is a hybrid approach where attorneys can either make decisions together or independently. It combines the oversight of joint appointments with the flexibility of several appointments.
  • The power does not cease if one attorney is unable to act, making it a more resilient arrangement.

Considerations for Choosing the Right Type of Appointment:

  • Trust and Cooperation: The level of trust and cooperation among the appointed attorneys is crucial. Joint appointments require a high degree of harmony and agreement.
  • Flexibility vs. Oversight: Consider whether the need for swift, independent decision-making outweighs the need for unanimous decisions.
  • Potential for Changes: Life circumstances can change. Joint appointments may become impractical if one attorney becomes unable to act.

Understanding the Different Purposes of Power of Attorney:

A Power of Attorney (POA) is not a one-size-fits-all document. Its purposes vary, depending on the needs and circumstances of the individual. Understanding these variations is key to making an informed decision about which type of POA is right for you.

General Power of Attorney:

  • This type of POA grants broad powers to the attorney to manage a wide range of affairs. It’s often used when someone needs assistance with their affairs for a short period, such as during overseas travel or a hospital stay.
    • The authority under a general POA usually ceases if the person becomes mentally incapacitated.

Enduring (or Durable) Power of Attorney:

  • An Enduring Power of Attorney remains effective even if the person loses mental capacity. This is crucial for long-term planning and is often used in the context of aging and health-related incapacity.
    • It allows the appointed attorney to make decisions about property, financial affairs, and, in some jurisdictions, health and lifestyle decisions.

Medical or Health Care Power of Attorney:

  • This POA is specifically designed to grant decision-making power regarding medical treatment and health care. It becomes active when a person is unable to make their own medical decisions.
    • The appointed attorney makes decisions based on the person’s medical needs and may consult with healthcare providers.

Limited or Special Power of Attorney:

  • A Limited Power of Attorney is for specific purposes and often for a limited time. It’s used when someone needs an attorney to handle specific matters, like selling a property or managing a particular financial transaction.
    • The authority is limited to the specific task or period outlined in the document.

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Deciding Between a Joint or Severally Appointed Power of Attorney:

Deciding between a joint or several Power of Attorney appointments depends on your unique circumstances, the nature of decisions to be made, and the dynamics among the people you choose to empower. It’s a decision that requires careful consideration and, often, legal advice to ensure that your interests are safeguarded in the way you intend.

Remember, the choice you make today will have a lasting impact on how decisions are made on your behalf in the future. Choose wisely.



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