So, what exactly is an EPA? Like a will, it’s a legal document. EPA stands for Enduring Power of Attorney. And while that sounds all very ‘Law & Order’, we promise it isn’t. An EPA is simply a way to nominate someone to make decisions on behalf of look after your well-being, property and finances, in the instance you’re medically unable to – or if you decide it’s too much to manage yourself. The person you choose is known as your ‘attorney’.
Is it true there are two kinds of EPA? Yes, it is. There’s an EPA specifically to look after your personal care and welfare (PCW) and another type of EPA to help you take care of your property and finances. It’s totally up to you whether you choose one or the other – or both. For more info on each type, check out our EPA web page.
Why and when would I need one? Broadly speaking, an EPA kicks in when you’ve been medically determined as unable to make life decisions for yourself. This could be for any number of reasons, including illness, mental decline or even an accident, like a fall in the home (touch wood).
You can also choose to put your EPA Property into play after its executed, if you feel decision-making is too much to cope with yourself. In either of these instances, your chosen attorney would step in to help manage your well-being and/or property and finances.
Isn’t an EPA for when I’m over the hill? No, not at all. We don’t want to be negative Nellies, but accidents and illness can strike at any age. So, it makes good sense for the average Kiwi adult to have an EPA in place. While no one can predict the future, an EPA is a wise back-up plan – just in case.
Can I have some real-life examples of how EPAs help? Sure. Let’s say you needed to move from your house to a retirement villa, but it was a bit overwhelming to manage by yourself. Your attorneys would then help you find something appropriate, and to suit your budget. If you needed to sell your home to do this, they’d oversee that too.
Another example? Perhaps you’ve had a niggly hip for a while and an operation was the best option. If you weren’t able to, your attorney for PCW would make the necessary arrangements – doctors, surgeons, hospitals, insurance, etc. – and you could relax knowing that the big stuff was taken care of.
One more... It’s the end of financial year and this time around you have a few more tax obligations than usual. If your mental clarity wasn’t what it used to be and you struggled with facts and figures, your attorney for property could simply take responsibility for your tax return and liaise with your accountant on behalf of you to get the job done.
Just so you know, an EPA doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t have a say. You can give as much or as little authority as you want and yourr attorney is required to include you in their decision-making s as much as possible.
Want more real-life examples on how an EPAs help? You might find this case study handy. Or here’s a few more.
What happens if I don’t have an EPA? Not the best-case scenario. If you don’t have an EPA and end up needing assistance, an application will have to be made to the Family Court. They’ll appoint someone to be your Property Manager or Welfare Guardian (or both). This, unfortunately, could tie up valuable time and money that was better spent on you. It may even have an emotional and/or financial impact on your loved ones.
Who should I choose to be my attorney? You’ll want to give this some thought. While being an attorney is an honour, it’s also a huge responsibility and can involve a lot of personal time and effort. An attorney needs to be 20 years of age and, naturally, you want someone you consider trustworthy. It’s a good idea they live in New Zealand too... the closer the better.
When it comes to property and finance EPAs, you can also choose to appoint a professional trustee organisation as your attorney, like Public Trust. This usually includes fees for time involved in managing your affairs (only if your EPA is activated), but it’s a useful option if you’re worried that financial matters will be challenging for loved ones. Don’t forget, if you go with a trustee organisation, you can request that family or friends still be involved in decision-making.
Want more tips and advice on choosing an attorney? You might find our earlier article handy. Or if you’ve been asked to be one yourself, here’s a good rundown of what’s involved.
I’m up for it. How do I get an EPA? Good move! There are a few main ways to sort your EPA. You can go through a lawyer, a law firm legal executive or a professional trustee organisation, like (such as Public Trust).
These days, it doesn’t have to be complicated. At Public Trust, our online service allows you to fill out an EPA in well under an hour – ready for signing and witnessing. If computers aren’t your thing, we’re happy to help over the phone. And, of course, you can always make a one-on-one and we’ll guide you through the process, beginning to end.
Ready for next steps? If you’re good to go, you can get started with a Public Trust online EPA right now. It’s free to sign up and you won’t be charged anything until you download your EPA document. Otherwise, you’re welcome to , find out more on our website, or simply talk to us on the phone at 0800 371 471.