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Decision making and powers of attorney

Overview

Many people assume that if they lose the ability to make decisions for themselves – because of a serious accident or illness, for example, or simply through getting older – their partner or a close relative will legally be able to make decisions for them. In fact, the law doesn’t work like that.

The law allows for you to plan ahead by making what’s called an enduring power of attorney – or “EPA” – where you give someone you trust the power to make decisions for you if you become unable to make them for yourself. See the next section, “Enduring powers of attorney”.

But if you haven’t made an enduring power of attorney and you lose the ability to make decisions or to communicate them to others, then usually someone will have to apply to the Family Court for a judge to make orders to deal with your personal affairs and your money and property. This could involve appointing someone to make decisions for you – they’re called “welfare guardians” and “property managers”. See “Family Court orders for your welfare or property” in this chapter.

Note: The law stresses the importance of people making their own decisions wherever possible, and provides ways to help them do this.

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Decision making & powers of attorney

Where to go for more support

Community Law

www.communitylaw.org.nz

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

Ministry of Justice

www.justice.govt.nz/family/powers-to-make-decisions

This has information about the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988.

Office for Senior Citizens

www.superseniors.msd.govt.nz/finance-planning/enduring-power-of-attorney

This website has useful information and videos, and also templates for preparing an enduring power of attorney.

Public Trust

www.publictrust.co.nz/personal/enduring-power-of-attorney

The Public Trust website has information on enduring powers of attorney.

Phone: 0800 371 471

Welfare Guardians Trusts

www.welfareguardians.nz

This site has information about welfare guardians and links to sites of some local Welfare Guardians Trusts.

People First

www.peoplefirst.org.nz/news-and-resources/easy-read-resources

People First New Zealand is a self advocacy organisation that is led and directed by people with learning (intellectual) disability. They create Easy Read resources which are available free to download on their website. Their resources include:

  • Information on Supported Decision-Making
  • Supported Decision-making tool
  • Enduring power of attorney information.

Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

The Community Law Manual is a trail-blazing resource that helps Kiwis (and their advocates) help themselves. The Manual contains over 800 pages of easy-to-read legal info, on just about every area of community and personal life. Re-released every year in July, the Manual provides comprehensive answers to common legal questions.

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