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Decision making: When others can legally make decisions for you

How you can appoint someone to make decisions for you: Enduring powers of attorney

Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988

You can decide ahead of time who will make decisions for you and about you, if you become unable to make those decisions yourself. The way to do this officially is to make an “enduring power of attorney” (EPA), which gives a specific person the legal power to act on your behalf if you become “mentally incapable”.

If you don’t make an EPA, and you become unable to make your own decisions, or unable to communicate your decisions to others, people close to you will need to go to the Family Court to get it to make certain kinds of decisions about your life, or to appoint someone to make those decisions for you.

There are two kinds of EPA, one for your personal life (the official term is “personal care and welfare”) and one for your property and money. You can make either type, or you can make both if you want.

How do I make an enduring power of attorney?

Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988, ss 94A, 95, 99, 112; Protection of Personal and Property Rights (Enduring Powers of Attorney Forms and Prescribed Information) Regulations 2008

There are specific forms to fill out. You can get these from a lawyer or from a trustee company like Public Trust or Te Tumu Paeroa/the Māori Trustee (see “Where to go for more support” at the end of this chapter). You’ll also need to get a professional person involved in signing the documents, like a lawyer or legal executive.

You can appoint the same person to be both your personal and property attorney – but make sure they have the financial skills to handle your money and property. You can also name someone to take over being your attorney if your first choice can no longer do it.

For more information about what’s involved in making an EPA, see “Enduring powers of attorney: planning ahead by choosing someone to make decisions for you” in the chapter “Decision making & powers of attorney”.  

EPAs for personal care and welfare

Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988, s 98

The person you appoint as your personal care and welfare attorney will be able to decide things like where you live, and whether you’ll have a medical procedure that’s been recommended by your doctor. You can only appoint one person to be your personal care and welfare attorney at a time.

Your attorney can start making small decisions for you if they reasonably believe that you’re no longer capable of making them yourself.

For bigger decisions – like whether you should go into residential care, or have a major medical operation – a professional person needs to assess you and decide you are “incapable”.

There are some extreme things an attorney is never allowed to do, like adopt out your children, or refuse medical treatment on your behalf.

For more about when your attorney can make decisions about you, see the chapter “Decision making & powers of attorney”

Property EPAs

Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988, s 97

You can say in the EPA when your attorney will start making decisions for you about your property. This could be right away, when you’re still “capable” but would rather not do things for yourself, or it might be only when you become “incapable”.

You can appoint a trustee company (like Public Trust) as your attorney if you want, rather than an individual. You can also appoint more than one person as property attorneys.

You can decide what kinds of things your property attorney will be able to do for you. It might be quite a small number of things or just one thing, such as managing a rental property for you – or it might be everything, including potentially selling your house or investing your money.

Your EPA doesn’t carry on after you die. So that means your property attorney doesn’t automatically become the executor of your will (see the “Wills” chapter for information about executors).

Making sure your attorney acts in your best interests

Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988, ss 99A, 107

Your attorney has to act in your best interests and help you to be as involved in decision making as you can be. You can say in your EPA that there are specific people your attorney has to consult with or tell about their decisions. The Family Court can step in if there are concerns.

Cancelling or changing your EPA

Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988, s 105

You can cancel (revoke) an EPA at any time while the law considers you to be “mentally capable”.

If you become able to make your own decisions again (if you come out of a coma for example), you can take back your power to make decisions by telling your attorney in writing.

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Disability rights

Where to go for more support

COVID-19 information


The Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA) has up-to-date COVID-19 information for the disabled community on their website. They also post new information on their Facebook page and their Information Exchange newsletter. You can sign up by going to the website linked above. For more information about DPA, see below.

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Auckland Disability Law



ADL provides assistance and referrals to disabled people on their legal issues, and work with other Community Law Centres, legal professionals and community organisations to raise disability awareness and achieve the best outcome for disabled people.

Office for Disability Issues


The Office for Disability Issues is the focal point in government on disability issues.

Human Rights Commission


This page on the HRC website focuses on the Commission’s work around both individual and systemic disability discrimination. There are resources available in multiple accessible formats.

Health and Disability Commissioner


Phone: 0800 11 22 33
Email: hdc@hdc.org.nz

The Health and Disability Commissioner has a range of pamphlets and other information on health and disability issues.

Contact a Health and Disability Advocate

Phone: 0800 555 050

Make a complaint to the Commissioner

Phone: 0800 11 22 33
Email: hdc@hdc.org.nz

PO Box 1791, Auckland

You can make a complaint by phoning the Commissioner’s office toll-free, by email, by filling in the online complaint form or by writing to them.

Ministry of Health Services and Support


Publicly funded health and disability services available in New Zealand.

Disabled Persons Assembly


The DPA is a pan-disability organisation. DPA works to improve social indicators for disabled people and for disabled people be recognised as valued members of society. DPA and its members work with the wider disability community, other disabled persons’ organisations, government agencies, service providers, international disability organisations and the public.

People First


People First New Zealand is a self-advocacy organisation that is led and directed by people with learning (intellectual) disability. People First has a free Disability Information and Advice Service and they also produce legal resources in Easy Read form which are free to download from their website.

Deaf Aotearoa


Deaf Aotearoa is a national organisation representing the voice of Deaf people, and the national service provider for Deaf people in New Zealand.

Deaf Aotearoa also works closely with Deaf communities, government agencies and other organisations to increase awareness, promote New Zealand Sign Language and strengthen the rights of Deaf people.

Family Violence – It’s Not OK


Phone: 0800 456 450

“It’s not OK” is a community-driven behaviour change campaign to reduce family violence in New Zealand. Its goal is to change attitudes and behaviour that tolerate any kind of family violence. The website has resources for families who are experiencing abuse. It’s not OK is an initiative housed within the Ministry of Social Development.

Family violence and disabled people


Inclusive Education


This site provides New Zealand educators with practical strategies, suggestions and resources to support the diverse needs of all learners.

Attitude Toolbox: The Whole Truth about Courts and Justice


This accessible video has information about the New Zealand justice system and courts. The video is presented in New Zealand Sign Language and fully subtitled in English.

New Zealand Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal


This Tribunal hears and determines disciplinary proceedings brought against health practitioners.

Public Trust


Public Trust is New Zealand’s largest provider of Wills and estate administration services.

Te Rōpū Taurima


Te Rōpū Taurima is a kaupapa Māori service that supports people of all ethnicities with intellectual impairments around New Zealand.

Le Va


Le Va supports Pasifika families and communities to unleash their full potential and have the best possible health and wellbeing outcomes.

Blind Low Vision NZ

(previously called Blind Foundation)


Blind Low Vision NZ is New Zealand’s main provider of support to New Zealanders who are blind or have low vision.



Phone: 0800 24 33 33

Achieve is a national network established to ensure equal opportunity and access to post-secondary education and training for people with impairments.

Privacy Commissioner


Phone: 0800 803 909
Email: enquiries@privacy.org.nz

You can download the pamphlet “Your Health Information: Know Your Privacy Rights” from the Privacy Commissioner’s website, at: www.privacy.org.nz

You can also download a copy of the Health Information Privacy Code from: www.privacy.org.nz/the-privacy-act-and-codes/codes-of-practice/health-information-privacy-code-1994

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