The path to security does not just involve making wise decisions in the present; you also have to look ahead and come up with contingencies. If you ever become unable to handle your affairs, you may need a deputy to stand in for you in making financial and property decisions.
In Australia, you can appoint a trusted person as your attorney to take care of your estate and finances while you’re away. To do so, you can bestow an enduring power of attorney (EPA) upon someone you trust, like a close friend or family member.
In this case, your attorney doesn’t have to be a practicing lawyer—we use the term “attorney” for purposes of distinction. Your attorney can be anyone over the age of 18, whom you can trust and is ready and willing to handle your affairs.
By granting an EPA, you grant to the person the authority to decide on matters such as your shares and deeds, when you lose your legal capacity. For instance, if the donor (or principal) falls into a coma, the attorney can then handle his or her estate.
Legal capacity in this sense is defined as the ability to comprehend any documents or communicate. Whether the donor has lost legal capacity is considered on a case-to-case basis; for instance, if someone is paralyzed, it may not necessarily mean that he/she has been incapacitated, since the person can still comprehend documents and communicate.
Enduring powers of attorney only cover your properties and your finances. They cannot make decisions on your behalf for medical, lifestyle, and personal choices, such as luxury purchases, health care plans, and others.
Once the court rules that you, the donor, have become legally incapacitated, the power of attorney commences. The person you appointed can then begin to make decisions on your estate and your accounts in your stead.
You may only appoint your attorney while you have legal capacity. While capable, you may also cancel the arrangement. For cases wherein someone who has not granted enduring power of attorney loses legal capacity, arrangements can be made for a representative to make decisions on his/her behalf.