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Decision making and powers of attorney

Overview

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 – or “EPA” – where you give someone you trust the power to make decisions for you if you become unable to make them for yourself. See the next section, “Enduring powers of attorney”

But 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” in this chapter.

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

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