Fraser Scott: Choosing the right Attorney is vital

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CHOOSING the right Attorney to look after your interests once you are no longer able is vital, says Fraser Scott

IT’S easy to accept a challenge when it seems a long way off. The recent Edinburgh Marathon inspired one of my friends to sign up for next year’s race. He is planning to raise funds for Alzheimer Scotland. I am certain he will do very well, but I fear he underestimates how demanding it will be.

The consequences of dementia are profound, for those with the condition and for their families and friends. The possibility that anyone can be affected by this disease is one of the primary reasons why so many of us choose to put in place Powers of Attorney. It gives us the assurance that if we are unable to make decisions for ourselves, then those whom we trust most may do so on our behalf.

Choosing the right Attorney is paramount; after all, they may be responsible for looking after every aspect of our life, including managing our money, deciding where we shall live, and even the clothes that we will wear. They must be capable of making informed, balanced decisions in often difficult circumstances. But crucially, they must also have sufficient insight into our character, and our personal preferences, to make the right decisions for us as individuals.

For many of us, the decision is simple; we appoint our spouse, our child, our closest friend. For others, it is more difficult. Sometimes there is no family or reasons why it would be inappropriate to appoint them. Faced with those circumstances, we might opt for a “professional” attorney, like a solicitor. Appointing a professional to be our Continuing (more commonly referred to as a “Financial”) Attorney is fairly commonplace now; after all, paying bills, managing bank accounts, and buying and selling property can be managed very efficiently at an administrative level. What is much less common is appointing a professional to be your “Welfare” Attorney.

For those people who are invited to be an Attorney, it is a case of asking some very basic questions before agreeing to it; Do I know the individual well enough?; Will I be able to make myself available?; Am I prepared to put their needs ahead of my own at the cost of my own time, money and personal relationships? If the answer is yes to all of these questions, that is just the first step.

The Attorney should understand the powers that he or she may require to use, and think about, practically, how the Power of Attorney would be exercised. For example, if the individual is admitted to hospital and is unable to return home, how would a move to residential care would be achieved and funded? In what circumstances should the Attorney consider selling the individual’s home? The best attorneys are often those who are best prepared.

• Fraser Scott is a solicitor with Murray Beith Murray