Who would make decisions for you if you couldn’t make them for yourself? How would they know what you want?

What if you had to make a decision for your partner? Do you really know what they would want for themselves? In the event that you couldn’t make decisions for yourself, your wishes are more likely to be respected if you plan and record them.

There are different ways you can do this, including making an advance care plan or an enduring power of attorney.

If you complete an enduring power of attorney, you can appoint one or more people to make decisions for you. And it endures even if you lose decision-making capacity.

The most important decision when making an enduring power of attorney is choosing who to appoint. With enduring powers, whoever is appointed will have the authority to make decisions for you after you no longer have decision-making capacity to change or cancel the appointment.

Many people choose their life partner or an adult child. Others prefer to appoint another family member, a friend with expertise in the area, an accountant, a lawyer, or a trustee company.

The important thing to remember is that you should feel confident that the person or agency has the ability and is willing to take on the role.

If you go down this path, it’s a good idea to talk to your attorney – that is, the person you have appointed to make decisions for you – about things that matter to you now and things that might matter in the future.

You may want to consider what sort of medical treatment you would or wouldn’t want, your attitude to living in residential aged care, how you would like your property to be managed, or if there is anyone you would not like to visit you if you were very unwell.

A new Act called the Powers of Attorney Act 2014 commenced on 1 September 2015. However, if you made an enduring power of attorney (financial) and/or enduring power of guardianship before 1 September 2015, they remain valid and there is no need to make new powers.

We would still recommend that you regularly review your powers of attorney, and consider if you are still happy with who you have appointed and the powers that you have given them, says Colleen Pearce, Victorian Public Advocate.

The downside is if you don’t make an enduring power of attorney and, in the future, can’t make decisions for yourself, you may need a guardian or administrator. These are appointed by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to make decisions for you. If this happens, it is VCAT, not you, that has the power to decide who to appoint.

People plan for the future in a variety of ways, such as taking out life, health, car, property and income insurance, preparing for retirement with superannuation and investments, establishing trusts for children, registering for organ donation and making wills and funeral plans, Colleen adds.

It makes good sense to get a power of attorney sorted out so that your wishes for the future are known.

The resources of the Office of the Public Advocate can also be very helpful. They include an interactive program for choosing the right person to make decisions on your behalf, You Decide Who Decides, and the booklet, Take control: a guide to making enduring powers of attorney containing all the forms and instructions.

See more information at www.publicadvocate.vic.gov.au or call their Advice Service on 1300 309 337.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transexual and Intersex community

For some people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) community it may be particularly important to consider making an enduring power of attorney. There may be issues of trust (for example, knowing that your attorney respects your lifestyle and relationship choices) and privacy (such as knowing that your attorney will respect your wishes about whether to disclose information about your sexual orientation and gender identity, and to whom).

As for any person choosing to appoint an enduring power of attorney, it is vital to communicate your views and wishes to your attorney.

Rowena Allen, Victoria’s first Gender and Sexuality Commissioner, says the issues around planning for the future can be especially significant for senior LGBTI Victorians.

Older LGBTI people may have wishes that they haven’t, for many reasons, communicated to their families or friends, she says.

I’d encourage them to organise an enduring power of attorney so that their wishes are known and they can live their future lives the way they choose.