Appointing an Enduring Power of Attorney for property (EPA-P) is arguably one of the most important life-decisions you will make, especially as you enter your post-retirement years. An EPA-P is someone you appoint (in advance) to carry out your wishes regarding your money and assets if and when you become incapable of managing them yourself, or if you no longer want to manage them. A great deal is written about the need to appoint an EPA-P, but little is said about the onerous task of acting as one.
The usual reaction to being asked to act as an EPA-P is, for many, almost a sense of flattery. After all, a friend or relative (we’ll refer to them as a ‘client’) is trusting you with their most valued possessions. That’s why it can be very easy to say ‘yes – I’ll do that job’. But before you do say ‘yes’, think about the following:
Being an EPA-P is a very responsible task; after all, the usual situation is you’re managing assets, not only in order to benefit your client, but also any beneficiaries of their will. Beneficiaries may well, after the death of a client (or even before this), question the decisions you make.
EPA-P-ing is usually (but not necessarily) an unpaid task, and it can be exceedingly time-consuming. To begin with, you will need to obtain your client’s personal details as they relate to their money assets. This is because, as EPA-P, you will be responsible for, among other things, your client’s day-to-day banking, bill paying, insurances, gifting (if any) and tax declarations. Obtaining the details you need to allow all this to happen is relatively easy if your client is physically well and of sound mind. However, if they are not, it can become a very time-consuming task to access the likes of personal passwords and banking information.
Once you have these details, you will also need to register as an ‘EPA-P authority’ with each and every organisation your client deals with. This is so you can act on behalf of your client. You will be asked, on numerous occasions as you carry out your duties, for a ‘non revocation order’ – a document stating your client has not retracted their appointment of you as their EPA-P.
In terms of time, agreeing to be an EPA-P is a little like entering into a marriage where ‘for richer or poorer’ means everything. If your client is well-off, it’s almost certain they well have considerable investments – perhaps, even, rental property – all of which will require regular attention. At the very least, you will be required to liaise with the professions who are responsible for these areas. If your client is not well-off, you will need to manage their limited assets to their best advantage, and in many cases, this can mean careful budgeting on their behalf. Budgeting, in the face of resistance from family or well-meaning friends who firmly believe their relative requires or ‘deserves’ more than they can realistically afford, can put an EPA-P in a very difficult position.
Your client’s personality should strongly influence you as to whether or not you accept their wish to appoint you as their EPA-P. This is because personality traits often become exacerbated with age. If your client has been, for example, a reckless spender or an unrealistic-giver in the past, this will likely only get worse with age. Are you prepared to manage their budget and banking if this is the case? Similarly, if they have, throughout their life, been thrifty to the point of it being unhelpful to themselves, will you find resistance and resentment when it comes to spending their money on items or services they desperately need?
These details are just a few of the many, many considerations to contemplate when a friend or relative asks you to be their EPA-P. To find out whether you really want to accept such a position, take time out to talk to others who have been there before you. Above all, don’t be in a hurry to say ‘yes’. And if, in the end, you decide to say ‘no’, be sure to say so diplomatically so that a good relationship is not compromised.