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Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) for personal care and welfare

An EPA for personal care and welfare is a legal document that gives someone you trust the power to make decisions about your health and welfare if you’re unable to.

What is an EPA for personal care and welfare

An EPA comes into effect if you become ‘mentally incapable’, for example because of an illness or accident. The person you give the decision-making power to is called your attorney. They’re often a family member or a trusted friend.

When an EPA comes into effect — Te Tari Kaumātua Office for Seniors

If you do not have an EPA for personal care and welfare

If you do not have one set up and you are not able to manage anymore, your family would need to apply to the Family Court to have someone appointed as a welfare guardian.

This can be expensive and time-consuming and the Court may not appoint the person you would have chosen. The appointment of a welfare guardian also needs to be renewed every few years.

What your attorney can and cannot decide

You decide whether your attorney can make decisions about everything to do with your care and welfare or only some things.

However, no matter what you decide they cannot:

  • make decisions about you getting married, separated or divorced
  • make decisions about the adoption of your children
  • consent to surgery or treatment of your brain, including electro-convulsive treatment (ECT) for the purposes of changing your behaviour
  • refuse consent to standard medical treatment that could save your life or prevent serious damage to you
  • allow you to take part in any medical experiment, unless it might save your life or prevent serious damage to your health.

If you need CPR your attorney cannot refuse permission. If you decide that, in some cases, you do not want to be resuscitated, you need to make an advance directive — sometimes known as a ‘living will’ — before you become mentally incapable.

Before you set up an EPA for personal care and welfare

Setting up an EPA involves some costs and requires planning in advance.

Creating an Enduring Power of Attorney — Te Tari Kaumātua Office for Seniors

If you’re mentally capable, you can change or end your EPA at any time.

Changing or ending an EPA — Te Tari Kaumātua Office for Seniors

Setting up an EPA

Find out how to set up an EPA and the forms you need, including the standard explanation form and the application form on the Ministry of Justice website.

Setting up an EPA — Family Court

Getting help from the Family Court

The Family Court can:

  • tell your attorney what to do
  • help if there is conflict between an attorney for personal care and welfare, and an attorney for property
  • review decisions your attorney has made
  • support your family or others, such as your doctor or social worker, if they’re worried about your attorney’s decisions.

The Family Court can stop your attorney or cancel an EPA if it decides:

  • your attorney is not acting in your best interests or fulfilling their responsibilities
  • you were pressured into appointing your attorney
  • your attorney is unsuitable because of their relationship to you, their mental state or criminal activity.

The Ministry of Justice has more information about the Family Court’s role, who can apply to it and the forms that need to be completed.

The Family Court and EPAs

Legal costs help

If you can’t afford a lawyer, you may be able to get legal aid. The Ministry of Justice website has information on:

Some lawyers and other legal professionals offer a SuperGold Card discount.

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