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Managing affairs for someone else

About this information

This document has information for people who want to manage someone else's affairs. It also has information if you want someone else to manage your affairs for you.

Managing someone else's affairs can mean a number of things, including:

  • looking after their bank accounts, savings, investments or other financial affairs
  • buying and selling property on their behalf
  • claiming and spending welfare benefits on their behalf
  • deciding where they live
  • making decisions about their day-to-day personal care or healthcare.

You might want to manage someone else's affairs because they:

  • are ill or disabled, either temporarily or on a long-term basis
  • are out of the country for a while
  • are unable to make decisions for themselves, because of mental illness or other reasons.

Different ways of managing someone's affairs

There are different ways of managing someone’s affairs. Choosing the right one will depend mainly on the circumstances of the person whose affairs you want to manage, and whether or not they have mental capacity – see When does someone lack mental capacity? You can look after someone's affairs in one of the following ways:-

Bank and building society accounts 

If all you need is for someone to be able, temporarily, to operate a bank account for you, you can just write to your bank. Many banks have their own form, called a form for third party mandate, which they will ask you to complete and return to them.

However, if you need someone to be able to operate more than one account for you, or you need someone to manage your financial affairs on a more long-term basis, you might want to think about making a power of attorney – see power of attorney.

Welfare benefits and tax credits 

If you are unable to collect your benefits or tax credits for any reason, you might want someone else to collect them for you.

If the benefits or tax credits are paid into a bank or building society account, contact the bank or building society to arrange for someone else to collect them. You might have to fill out a third party mandate – see Bank and building society accounts above.

If the money is paid into a post office card account and needs to be regularly collected by someone else, contact the post office and ask about arranging for someone else to collect it. Someone who regularly collects benefit for someone else is often called an agent. You must be able to trust your agent as they will be able to withdraw money from your account and check your balance. Your agent will be given their own card and PIN – do not give them yours as you would be breaking the terms and conditions of your account and putting the person helping you in a difficult position if money goes missing from your account. You can get an application form to appoint an agent from any Post Office.

If your benefits or tax credits are normally paid by cheque, you can fill in the back of the cheque to allow someone else to cash it for you. If you want someone to cash a benefit or tax credits cheque for you on a regular basis, you should contact the office that deals with your benefits or tax credits payments to let them know.

You might need someone to deal with all aspects of your benefits or tax credits, not just collecting payments. This could involve doing things such as:

  • filling in claim forms
  • answering queries and letters
  • informing benefit or tax credit offices about any changes of circumstance.

If this is the case, you can ask for someone else, usually a relative but sometimes a friend or neighbour, to be made your appointee. You should contact the office which deals with your benefits or tax credits. You will need to fill in an application form, and someone will arrange to visit you and the person you want to act on your behalf to confirm that you cannot manage your own affairs and that the person you want to be your appointee is suitable and understands their responsibilities. If you lose your mental capacity and someone starts to act for you under an enduring power of attorney or is made your controller by the Office of Care and Protection, this person automatically takes over from your appointee in dealing with benefits.

For more information about appointees, see www.nidirect.gov.uk

You can also arrange for someone to deal with your benefits or tax credits case by giving them power of attorney – see Power of attorney, below.

Power of attorney 

When someone makes a power of attorney, they appoint someone else to act on their behalf. The person making the power of attorney is called a donor and the person appointed to act on their behalf is called an attorney.

A power of attorney gives the attorney the legal authority to deal with third parties such as banks or the local council.

In order to make a power of attorney, you must be capable of making decisions for yourself. This is called having mental capacity – see When does someone lack mental capacity?

There are two different types of power of attorney. These are:

Ordinary power of attorney

If you want someone to look after your financial affairs for a long period of time, you can give them an ordinary power of attorney. You might want to give someone an ordinary power of attorney if:

  • you have a physical illness
  • you have an accident which leads to physical injury
  • you are abroad for a long period of time.

You should not use an ordinary power of attorney if:

  • you have been diagnosed with a mental health problem or other disease which can lead to mental incapacity
  • you think you may develop a mental health problem or other disease which can lead to mental incapacity.

This is because you won't be able to continue using an ordinary power of attorney if you lose your mental capacity. Under these circumstances, it may be more appropriate to use an enduring power of attorney. For more information about an enduring power of attorney, see Enduring power of attorney. For more information about mental capacity, see When does someone lack mental capacity?

How to grant an ordinary power of attorney

You can give someone power of attorney to deal with all your financial affairs or only certain matters, for example, to operate a bank account, to buy and sell property or change investments. An ordinary power of attorney which only gives authority to deal with certain matters is also known as a limited power of attorney. If you want to make a limited power of attorney you should make sure that it is drawn up in very clear terms so that the attorney’s powers are limited to those that you have agreed to.

There is a standard form of words to use if you want to grant an ordinary power of attorney. If you want to grant an ordinary power of attorney, you should contact a solicitor or an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Enduring power of attorney 

What is an enduring power of attorney?

If you are over 18 and want someone to look after your affairs for a long period of time, even after you become mentally incapable, you can give them an enduring power of attorney (EPA). An EPA is different from an ordinary power of attorney because:

  • an EPA must be registered before it can be used
  • an EPA is intended for use by people who are at risk of losing their mental capacity

When should I make an EPA?

You should make an EPA if you have been diagnosed with, or think you might develop, an illness which might prevent you from making decisions for yourself at some time in the future.

The kinds of illness which might prevent you from making decisions for yourself include:

  • dementia
  • mental health problems
  • brain injury
  • alcohol or drug misuse
  • the side-effects of medical treatment
  • any other illness or disability.

You must make an EPA whilst you are still capable of making decisions for yourself. This is called having mental capacity – see When does someone lack mental capacity? If there is any doubt as to the donor’s mental capacity at the time the EPA is being considered, the advice of a doctor should be sought.

If you want to look after the affairs of someone who has already lost their mental capacity and does not already have an EPA, see Who can make decisions when someone loses mental capacity and there's no power of attorney?

Different types of Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA)

An EPA can give someone the authority to deal with and make decisions about things like:

  • buying or selling property
  • bank, building society and other financial accounts
  • welfare benefits or tax credits
  • tax affairs
  • debts
  • legal proceedings.

An EPA must be recorded on a specific form. There are risks involved in creating an EPA, and you should always get advice from an experienced adviser before you make your decision. You can make more than one EPA appointing different attorneys to do different things. You can give someone power of attorney to deal with all your property and financial affairs or only certain things, for example, to operate a bank account, to buy and sell property or change investments. If you want to make an EPA which only deals with certain matters, you should make sure that it is drawn up very carefully so that the attorney is very clear about what authority they have to deal with your affairs.

You can also state that the power should not come into effect unless you become mentally incapacitated, and you can require that your attorney produce medical evidence from one or more doctors before the power comes into effect. If you create the EPA some years before you want to use it, you may wish to tell organisations, eg your bank, that you have created it, although your attorney may not be permitted to use it until it has been registered if it contains that restriction. This is because some banks and building societies do not like to accept an EPA that was created several years before it came into effect.

You should discuss with an experienced adviser the best ways to avoid abuse of your EPA. These include telling other people that you have created an EPA, appointing more than one attorney, and specifying in the EPA that it can only be used after you have lost your mental capacity.

If you lose your mental capacity, your attorney must apply to register the EPA. The attorney has no authority to act for you until the application has been made.

However, you don't have to wait until someone loses their mental capacity before using it. An EPA will come into effect as soon as it is registered. This means that the attorney will be able to start making decisions straight away, even if you are still capable of making your own decisions. If you don't want the attorney to be able to make decisions about your affairs straight away, you should make sure that the EPA says this.

The EPA must always include authority for the attorney to make decisions once the donor has lost their mental capacity.

How to make an enduring power of attorney

You must make an EPA whilst you're still able to make decisions for yourself. You should choose the person who you want to look after your affairs very carefully. The person you choose to look after your affairs is called an attorney. See General rules about power of attorney.

If you want to make an EPA, you should contact an experienced adviser, for example a solicitor or an adviser at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

How to cancel an enduring power of attorney

You can cancel an EPA at any time while you remain mentally capable, until it is registered, by signing a Deed of Revocation. Once the EPA is registered, it cannot be cancelled or revoked unless and until the Office of Care and Protection confirms the revocation.

If you cancel a power of attorney, you should inform your attorney in writing. You should also tell all the banks and anywhere else that you have invested money that the document has been cancelled.

If you decide to create a new power of attorney, the new EPA should make clear that it supercedes the old EPA, you should add a clause to the new one stating that you revoke the previous power of attorney or that you revoke all powers of attorney made previously by you.

Registering an enduring power of attorney

To use an EPA after someone has lost their mental capacity, the EPA must first be registered with the Office of Care and Protection. The EPA must be registered by the person who will be managing someone else's affairs (the attorney).

Before you register the EPA, you must notify certain people that you are going to register it. This is done on an EP1 form which you must send to all the following people:

  • the person whose affairs you are going to manage (the donor)
  • any other attorneys if there are more than one
  • at least three of the donor’s nearest relatives, in order of priority.

The order of priority is:

  • donor’s spouse
  • donor’s children
  • donor’s parents
  • donor’s (full or half) siblings
  • widow or widower of a child of the donor
  • donor’s grandchildren
  • children of donor’s full siblings
  • children of donor’s half siblings
  • donor’s full aunts and uncles
  • children of donor’s full aunts and uncles

If the donor has fewer than three living relatives who fall within the classes above, the attorney(s) should state this on the registration application.

Once you have given this notice, you can apply to register the EPA by sending the original EPA and form EP2 to the Office of the Care and Protection. There is a registration fee of £115, although some people won't have to pay it in cases of hardship.

If there are no objections to the registration after 35 days of sending out the EP1 forms, the Office of Care and Protection will check that everything is in order and, if so, register the power of attorney and return it to you. The EPA will be stamped as registered and carry a court seal. You can then make binding decisions about the donor's financial affairs and you must act in the best interests of the donor at all times

If there is an objection to registration, a copy will be supplied to the attorney(s). If the objector and attorney(s) cannot resolve the matter, the Office of Care and Protection may hear and decide the objection.

You can find out more information and download forms at www.courtsni.gov.uk

General rules about power of attorney 

There are some general rules which apply to all the different types of power of attorney.

Who can make a power of attorney

The person making a power of attorney is called a donor. In order to make a power of attorney, you must be capable of making decisions for yourself. This is called having mental capacity – see When does someone lack mental capacity? You can only make a power of attorney which allows someone else to do things that you have a right to do yourself.

No one else can make a power of attorney for you. You can instruct a solicitor to draft a power of attorney for you, but the solicitor should only accept instructions or authorisation from you, whether in person or in writing. They should not accept instructions or authorisation from anyone else, including the person who is to become your attorney.

A child under 18 can be a donor of an ordinary power of attorney, but a child can only give an attorney the power to do things that they can legally do as a child.

If you are, or if you have, a child who is thinking about granting a power of attorney, you should always see a solicitor. You can obtain details of local solicitors from, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Who can be an attorney

The person appointed to act on behalf of the donor is called an attorney. Anyone can be an attorney, as long as:

  • they are capable of making decisions
  • they are 18 or over.

Anyone who is, or who has been, bankrupt, cannot act as an attorney under an enduring power of attorney (EPA). If an attorney becomes bankrupt, the EPA is revoked.

Solicitors and trust corporations such as banks can act as an attorney. Professional attorneys can charge for their services. If your attorney is a friend or relative, they can get back out-of-pocket expenses, but they can only get paid for carrying out their duties if the donor has agreed to this on the EPA form. The attorney(s) do not have to be resident in Northern Ireland, but if they live outside Northern Ireland permanently they could experience difficulties in acting on the donor’s behalf.

Can there be more than one attorney?

A donor can appoint more than one attorney. This can work in one of two ways:

Attorneys appointed to act together (also known as joint attorneys) – this means they must always act together. The advantage of this arrangement is that it makes it harder for an attorney to commit fraud or do something against the interests of the donor. The disadvantage is that the whole power of attorney comes to an end if one attorney dies or becomes mentally incapable.

Attorneys appointed to act together and independently (also known as joint and several attorneys) When attorneys are appointed in this way, it means that the signature or action of one attorney is as valid as if they were the only attorney. It also means that the power of attorney will continue in force if anything happens to one of the attorneys.

Responsibilities of an attorney

When you are appointed as an attorney, you are placed in a position of trust and you must always act in the best interests of the donor.

You can only do the things the donor has authorised you to do. You can't ask anyone else to carry out any of your duties, unless the donor has authorised you to do so.

You must keep separate up-to-date accounts of the donor's financial affairs. When you are acting on the donor's behalf and have to sign any documents, you should sign your usual signature and add, beneath the signature, the words Attorney for ... (donor's name).

When does someone lack mental capacity?

It's important to know whether someone has the mental capacity to make a decision. This could affect the options you have for dealing with their affairs, such as whether it's still possible to make an enduring power of attorney (EPA) and when to register an EPA – see Enduring power of attorney.

If someone can make a decision for themselves, they can be said to have the mental capacity to make that decision. If they aren't able to make a decision because of some form of mental disability, they can be said to lack the mental capacity to make that decision. The disability may be either temporary or permanent and could be caused by:

  • dementia
  • brain injury
  • a stroke
  • alcohol or drug misuse
  • the side-effects of medical treatment
  • any other illness or disability.

Northern Ireland is planning to introduce legislation governing when someone has the mental capacity to make a decision but until this happens, the court will apply common law. Generally, a person is unable to make a decision if they can't:

  • understand the information needed to help them make the decision, even when the information is given in a way which meets their needs, for example, using simple language or by sign language, or
  • remember that information, or
  • use or weigh the information to help them make the decision, or
  • communicate their decision in any way.

Someone may lack the capacity to make all decisions, or they may have the capacity to make certain decisions, but not others.

Who can make decisions when someone loses mental capacity and there's no power of attorney? 

You may need to make decisions for someone who has lost their mental capacity when there is no enduring power of attorney.

Once the person has lost their mental capacity, it is no longer possible to make a power of attorney – see When does someone lack mental capacity?

It is possible to apply to the Office of Care and Protection for a decision to be made on a particular matter. However, if there is a continuing need to make decisions on the person's behalf, you can ask the Office of Care and Protection to appoint you as a controller.

A controller is usually a family member or someone who knows the person well. A controller can make decisions about someone's person’s property and financial affairs. If there's no friend or family member who is suitable or willing to act as a controller, the Office of Care and Protection can appoint the Official Solicitor.

If the Office of Care and Protection appoints you as a controller, you will take control of the person's financial affairs and property and act on their behalf. You will be required to open a bank account in your own name as controller and you will need the permission of the Office of Care and Protection before making any decisions about capital, such as the incapacitated person's home or other property. You will usually be required to present yearly accounts of the person's finances.

In certain cases, where the incapacitated person's assets are valued at less than £16,000, you can usually apply to the Office of Care and Protection for directions that, if granted, mean that the Office of Care and Protection does not need to appoint a controller. This is a less formal arrangement, but every situation still needs to be fully assessed individually by the Office of Care and Protection in order to decide whether directions would be appropriate. Contact the Office of Care and Protection, for further details and the appropriate forms.

What can you do if you think someone isn't acting in the best interests of someone who has lost mental capacity? 

You may be concerned that an attorney or a deputy is not acting in the best interests of someone who has lost their mental capacity. You should report your concerns to the Office of the Care and Protection – see Further information.

If there's an enduring power of attorney which hasn't yet been registered, you may be able to object to the registration. The Office of Care and Protection can direct an official of the court to visit an attorney or controller to investigate your concerns. In serious cases, the Office of Care and Protection can cancel an enduring power of attorney.

If you suspect an attorney or deputy of physical or sexual abuse, theft or serious fraud, you should contact the police. In some cases, it will be necessary to involve social services too.

Further information 

Office of Care and Protection

The Office of Care and Protection is responsible for:

  • registering enduring powers of attorney
  • appointing and supervising controllers
  • making sure an attorney or controller is carrying out their duties properly
  • dealing with complaints and objections about attorneys and controllers.

The CourtsNI website has:

  • a complete list of all application forms and guidance notes for enduring powers of attorney together with information on fees.

The contact details of the Office of Care and Protection are:-

The Office of Care and Protection
Room 2.02 First Floor
Royal Courts of Justice
Chichester Street
Belfast
BT1 3JF

Tel: 028 9072 4732 or 028 9072 4733

Email: officeofcare&protection@courtsni.gov.uk
Website: www.courtsni.gov.uk

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