Decision making and powers of attorney


Many people assume that if they lose the ability to make decisions for themselves – because of a serious accident or illness, for example, or simply through getting older – their partner or a close relative will legally be able to make decisions for them. In fact, the law doesn’t work like that.

The law allows for you to plan ahead by making what’s called an enduring power of attorney – sometimes abbreviated to “EPA” or “EPOA”. An EPA gives someone you trust the power to make decisions for you if you become unable to make them for yourself (see: “Enduring powers of attorney”).

If you haven’t made an enduring power of attorney and you lose the ability to make decisions or to communicate them to others, then usually someone will have to apply to the Family Court for a judge to make orders to deal with your personal affairs and your money and property. This could involve appointing someone to make decisions for you – they’re called “welfare guardians” and “property managers” (see: “Family Court orders for your welfare or property”).

Note:  The law stresses the importance of people making their own decisions wherever possible, and provides ways to help them do this.

Did this answer your question?

Decision making and powers of attorney

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online:

Ministry of Justice

The Ministry of Justice has information about the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988.


Office for Senior Citizens

The Office for Senior Citizens website has useful information and templates for preparing an enduring power of attorney.


New Zealand Law Society

The Law Society has helpful information on Powers of Attorney.


Public Trust

The Public Trust is a provider of wills and estate administration services. The Public Trust’s website has helpful information about enduring powers of attorney.

Phone:  0800 371 471

Welfare Guardian Trusts

The Welfare Guardians Trusts’ website provides information about welfare guardians and links to some local Welfare Guardian Trusts.


People First

People First New Zealand is a self-advocacy organisation that is led and directed by people with learning disabilities. They create Easy Read resources which are available free to download on their website.

Phone: 0800 20 60 70

Organ donation

Organ Donation New Zealand has information about organ and tissue donation.


Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

The Manual contains over 1000 pages of easy-to-read legal info and comprehensive answers to common legal questions. From ACC to family law, health & disability, jobs, benefits & flats, Tāonga Māori, immigration and refugee law and much more, the Manual covers just about every area of community and personal life.

Buy The Community Law Manual

Help the manual

We’re a small team that relies on the generosity of all our supporters. You can make a one-off donation or become a supporter by sponsoring the Manual for a community organisation near you. Every contribution helps us to continue updating and improving our legal information, year after year.

Donate Become a Supporter

Find the Answer to your Legal Question

back to top