An attorney is a person appointed by you to act on your behalf and is authorised to sign documents that otherwise would have needed your signature. Traditionally, solicitors were also called 'attorneys - at - law', although the expression now survives in the USA but does not tend to be used in the UK.
It is possible to appoint anyone to carry out steps (not necessarily in court) on your behalf under the Powers of Attorney Act 1971. You can limit the power you give if you wish.
In 1985 there was a development designed to allow a personal attorney to continue acting on your behalf (and in your place) even after you lost your ability to withdraw the power by reason of a failure in your mental capacity. The Enduring Powers of Attorney were devised. If you lost capacity, these Enduring Powers of Attorney were to be registered at the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG).
The most recent development is that the Enduring Powers of Attorney may no longer be signed after 2007 and in their place, Lasting Powers of Attorney may be used.
Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) must be registered with the OPG before they can be used at all.
However ordinary powers of an attorney can continue to be used although it must be remembered they become void if a person loses capacity.
Enduring Powers of Attorney may still be used if they were signed before the 1st October 2007
Please see our Frequently Asked Questions on Powers of Attorney for further information.