Being an enduring power of attorney is a big responsibility. It can sometimes be challenging to know what to decide on behalf of your loved one. In this article we look at the responsibilities and rules for an EPOA.
Often, the hardest aspect of the enduring power of attorney (EPOA) role is balancing the needs of the person you’re making the decision for with your own concerns and wishes for them. While most people tackle the role diligently, in some cases EPOAs have misused their power to inflict elder abuse.
The ‘Duties and Responsibilities Under an EPOA in Queensland’ sets out the rights of the person with impaired capacity and states that they have the same human rights as other adults:
“The right to make decisions is fundamental to the person’s dignity and includes the right to make decisions with which others may not agree.
These rights are protected by the General Principles and the Health Care Principle, which every attorney must apply when acting or making a decision for the person.”
What are the General Principles an EPOA must follow?
In Queensland, the General Principles provide a set of rules to guide attorneys in fulfilling their duties and obligations.
The General Principles include:
- Presuming the person has the capacity to make decisions until loss of capacity is confirmed by health professionals
- Recognising the person’s right to be included in decisions for which he or she has the capacity and that affect his or her life
- Taking into account the person’s past actions to determine what his or her views and wishes would be in relation to a decision
- Respecting the person’s human worth and dignity and equal claim to basic human rights, regardless of capacity
- Recognising the person’s role as a valued member of society, encouraging self-reliance and participation in community life
- Taking into account the importance of the person’s existing supportive relationships, values, culture and language
- Making decisions appropriate to the person’s characteristics and needs, including safety
- Recognising the person’s right to confidentiality
Using these principles as a guide can help you as an EPOA to think about the needs, wishes and beliefs of your loved one. It can also assist you in weighing up any difficult decisions you may be facing.
What are the Health Care Principles an EPOA must follow?
The Health Care Principle states that health care decisions must:
- Maintain or promote the person’s health or well-being and be in the person’s best interests
- Be made in the way that is least restrictive of the person’s rights
- Take into account the person’s views and wishes, where possible, along with information given by the person’s health care provider/s.
This principle can help you weigh up options in line with the person’s best interests, views and wishes. For instance, do they wish to continue living as a couple in a retirement village or aged care facility? Do they want to bring their pet? Do they want to keep their independence?
Our questions to ask your aged care provider resource can help you narrow down the search.
What are the rules around managing finances under an EPOA?
EPOAs have a duty to act carefully and in the person’s best interest when managing money and property. EPOAs should:
- Keep accurate records of financial and legal transactions
- Keep the person’s property separate from your own or other attorneys
- Obtain financial planning or taxation advice when needed
- Invest only in authorised investments, unless the EPOA document directs otherwise
- Review investments annually
- Not disclose confidential information gained in your role as attorney, unless authorised.
Managing personal relationships as an EPOA
There is no doubt that acting as an EPOA, particularly when you share this role, can be fraught with potential for disagreements.
An EPOA has a duty to work together with other attorneys. They should not allow any breakdown in communication to negatively impact the person you are acting for.
If you are having trouble agreeing with each other, it’s important to keep the person you are acting for, and their rights, beliefs and wishes, at the heart of your decision-making.
How advanced care planning can help
Encouraging a loved one to carry out advance care planning can help when the time comes to act as an EPOA. By knowing and understanding their wishes in regards to health care, accommodation and finances you are better equipped to ensure that their needs are met and you are making decisions in their best interests.