Legal Dictionary

power of attorney

Legal Definition of power of attorney


  1. A document which gives a person the right to make binding decisions for another, as an agent. A power of attorney may be specific to a certain kind of decision or general, in which the agent makes all major decisions for the person who is the subject of the power of attorney. The person signing the power of attorney is usually referred to, in law, as the donor and the person that would exercise the power of attorney, the donee.

Related terms

Definition of power of attorney


power of attorney (plural powers of attorney)

  1. (law) A legal document allowing one person to act as the agent of another.

Related terms

Further reading

A power of attorney (POA) or letter of attorney in common law systems or mandate in civil law systems is an authorization to act on someone else's behalf in a legal or business matter. The person authorizing the other to act is the principal, granter or donor (of the power), and the one authorized to act is the agent, the attorney-in-fact, or in many Common Law jurisdictions, simply the attorney.

UK Law

In English law, anyone with capacity can grant a Power of Attorney. These can be general (i.e. to do anything which can legally be done by an attorney), or relate to a specific act (eg. to sell freehold property).

A normal Power of Attorney however ceases to have effect if the donor loses capacity. If it is the donor's intention for the Power to continue after they have lost capacity, then a "Lasting Power of Attorney" (LPA) should be granted. These came into being in 1 October 2007, and replaced the "Enduring Powers of Attorney" (EPA's) which had previously been used. LPA's were introduced by the government in order to reduce the potential for abuse that was a problem with the EPA system, and also to allow donors to grant attorneys the power to look after their welfare and not just their finances, which had not been possible under the EPA regime. It is worth noting that an EPA made out before October 2007 can still be registered.

The new LPA regime is therefore subject to stronger safeguards than the old EPA regime. Registering an LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian costs �120, and the documents can be filled in and submitted without the need to appoint a solicitor, meaning additional fees can be avoided. The document requires an independent 'Certificate Provider' who can be a solicitor, GP or social worker, among others. Alternatively, someone who has known you well for more than two years may take this role, providing they are not a family member.

UK Government Public Guardianship Office - Clear explanation of the process by the office that manages Enduring Powers of Attorney and Lasting Powers of Attorney.

In Scots law, a power of attorney can be granted by an individual with capacity. If it is intended that the power of attorney is to take effect on the incapacity of the granter, then the verification of a practising solicitor is a required solemnity of execution. The document must be registered with the Public Guardian before it can take effect. There are currently two types of power of attorney � continuing and welfare.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


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