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Choosing an attorney for a Welfare Power of Attorney

In a Welfare Power of Attorney (WPA) your attorney can be anyone over the age of 16, such as a partner, family member or friend.

You need to trust your attorney to understand your wishes, respect your values and make the decisions that you would want. Your attorney must be able to make potentially difficult decisions on your behalf so it’s important that you discuss your wishes with anyone who you’d like to act as your attorney.

Questions to ask when choosing an attorney

To help you decide who to choose, try asking yourself these questions:

  • Do they understand my wishes?
  • Will they respect my values?
  • Could they stand up for what I want, even if a doctor disagrees?

Can I have more than one attorney?

Yes, you can have more than one attorney. There’s no limit to the number of attorneys you can have. You can also choose one or several substitute attorneys who will take over if your original attorney can’t continue to act.

If you have more than one attorney, then you can choose how they make decisions. Your attorneys can act in one of two ways: jointly or severally.

Jointly 

This means that your attorneys must make decisions together and agree unanimously on all the decisions they make. For example, if you were in hospital and a decision needed to be made on your behalf but the doctors could only get in contact with one of your attorneys, then that one attorney wouldn’t be able to make the decision for you because all attorneys have to agree before any action can be taken.

If you choose for your attorneys to act jointly it also means that if one attorney is unable to make a decision, for example because they’ve died, then the remaining attorneys won’t be able to make decisions for you. If you’ve chosen any substitute attorneys, they’ll step in to make decisions alone.

Jointly and severally or severally

This means that your attorneys can make a decision together but they can also make a decision on their own. For example, if you were in hospital and a decision needed to be made on your behalf but the doctors could only get in contact with one of your attorneys, then that one attorney could still make the decision for you.

If you choose for your attorneys to act jointly and severally or severally it also means that if one attorney is unable to make a decision, for example because they’ve died, the remaining attorneys will still be able to make decisions for you. If you’ve chosen any substitute attorneys, they can step in to make decisions with the remaining attorneys.

If you want your attorneys to act in this way, you should make it clear that you’re appointing them “to act jointly and severally or severally” on your WPA document.

If you don’t specify how your attorneys must act when you make your WPA document, then they’ll have to act jointly.