Think before giving your powers away
From 1 March 2020, the Victorian Office of the Public Advocate will change its focus of advice about powers of attorney by stressing the importance of future planning as opposed to just filling out forms.
As such, the hard copy version of the DIY powers of attorney booklet, Take Control, will no longer be available.
Instead, there will be an online version which people can download or print for themselves with links to where people can find the forms.
For the next 12 months, people can order a general Take Control brochure outlining all the different types of powers. This information is also available online.
Public Advocate, Colleen Pearce, said that it was important for Victorians to carefully think through the decisions that may need to be made for them in the future if they lose capacity, and who was best placed for make them.
“OPA has a legal role to educate people with disability about laws affecting them and this change in focus continues that role but also improves on it,” Ms Pearce said.
“It’s important that people understand that the planning is important; it is unwise to rush into signing forms without having thought through all the issues. If you do not carefully consider what powers you are granting to who, why and when they should commence, it could lead to the documents being abused.”
“While it’s still possible to complete powers of attorney yourself, you can also engage a lawyer with expertise in this area to ensure the documents are completed accurately, otherwise, your wishes may be at risk.”
Ms Pearce said that completing powers of attorney accurately had become more difficult as the legislation had become more complex, and this was also a factor in the decision to cease promoting the self-help guide which was getting more and more complex as well.
OPA’s Advice Service will still provide information about powers of attorney but will be placing more emphasis on helping people to think through all the issues.
Should people choose to get legal advice, they can engage a solicitor or State Trustees Limited for a fee.
OPA wishes to thank a number of entities involved in Take Control over the years including the Northcote (now Darebin) Community Legal Centre, the Legal Aid Commission of Victoria (now Victoria Legal Aid) and solicitor Robert Phillips.
OPA became involved in powers of attorney following deinstitutionalisation as they were seen as a possible alternative for some people to the need for formal guardianship.
Up until 1 March 2020, individuals may still order a copy of the DIY powers of attorney booklet, Take Control from the Victoria Legal Aid website at https://www.legalaid.vic.gov.au/find-legal-answers/free-publications-and-resources/take-control
12 February 2020.