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Enduring power of attorney bill introduced

Hon Ruth Dyson
Minister for Senior Citizens

21 November 2006 Media Statement

Enduring power of attorney bill introduced

The Labour-led government has taken a major step forward in safeguarding the rights of disabled and older New Zealanders who have entered into enduring power of attorney agreements with the introduction of a new Bill in Parliament today, Senior Citizens Minister Ruth Dyson said.

"The Protection of Personal and Property Rights Amendment Bill has been developed to help ensure that vulnerable older and disabled people have greater protections under the law when setting up an enduring power of attorney (EPA). These changes will ensure that donors’ wishes are carried out and that their interests are safeguarded. They also reflect our commitment to positive ageing.

"Enduring power of attorney is an important way for people to provide for advanced old age, when they may not be able to make decisions about their personal lives and finances. However, such an arrangement can be misused, and the well-being and finances of an older or disabled person put at risk," said Ruth Dyson.

The person giving the power of attorney is called the donor and the person authorised to act is known as the attorney. It is not necessary for the attorney to be a lawyer. An enduring power of attorney can be revoked by the donor at any time.

The major amendments in the Bill will provide better protections including:

- a legislative presumption of competence of the donor

- making it explicit that attorneys must act in the donor’s best interests

- a purpose statement describing the role of the attorney as providing support to the donor when requested, and acting in a legal capacity for the donor only when incapacity has been established.

The Bill will strengthen witnessing requirements for all new EPAs, providing protection to donors by changing the threshold for activation of a personal care and welfare attorney’s powers, and replaces the current gifting section with a provision preventing an attorney gifting or making loans of the donor’s property unless the donor has authorised this when setting up his or her EPA.

The Bill will also provide easier access to the courts so that a wider range of people can apply to place their concerns about an attorney’s acts under an EPA before a court.

ENDS

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