Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) for property
An EPA for property is a legal document that means that someone can look after your money and property if you become unable to.
What is an EPA for property
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 can be a:
- family member
- trusted friend
- professional, such as a lawyer or accountant, or
- trustee company, such as the Public Trust.
Your husband, wife or partner does not automatically have the right to access your bank accounts or make decisions about property if it’s held in your name.
You can also establish an Enduring Power of Attorney for personal care and welfare.
If you do not have an EPA for property
If you are not able to manage your money and property anymore and you do not have an EPA, your family needs to apply to the Family Court to have someone appointed as a property manager. This can be expensive and time-consuming, and the Court may not appoint the person that you would have chosen. The appointment of a property manager also needs to be renewed every few years.
What your attorney can decide
You need to choose someone you trust to be your attorney as they’ll have the power to:
- sell your house and other property
- access your bank accounts
- manage your investments
- pay your bills
- manage any businesses you own.
Your attorney should have the time and skills to deal with your money and property. They need to keep records of any decisions and actions they take and must act in your best interests and consult you as much as they can.
Your attorney can also act on your behalf if you get a benefit or pension from Work and Income.
Before you set up an EPA for property
Setting up an EPA involves some costs and requires planning in advance.
Before setting up an EPA, read the Ministry of Social Development Super Seniors website. It provides the following information:
- Who can be an attorney?
- Can I change my EPA?
- How do I get an EPA?
- What should I prepare when setting up an EPA? (including the forms you need)
- EPA step by step videos.
More information about EPAs
For answers to common questions about an EPA, including ending an EPA or cancelling an attorney, see the Super Seniors website.
Choosing the right attorney
You can choose to appoint a trustee company, such as the Public Trust, to be your attorney. A trustee company acts for you in a neutral and independent way, but charges you to do this.
You can also appoint someone — known as your successor attorney — to take over if your attorney wants to stop acting for you, dies or has their appointment revoked.
Choosing when your EPA for property starts
You can choose whether your EPA begins when:
- you’re still mentally capable, that is your attorney can act when you want or need them to
- you’ve become mentally incapable.
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.
Appointing more than 1 attorney
With an EPA for property you can have more than 1 person as an attorney. This can provide greater protection for you and give your attorneys someone to discuss decisions with. If you do appoint more than 1 person, you need to decide if you want them to act jointly or separately.
If they act jointly, they must make decisions together and anything requiring a signature will require all of their signatures. You need to decide what happens if one of them stops being your attorney or has their appointment revoked — otherwise the EPA will end. There are various solutions you could choose, such as appointing a successor attorney to take over, or for the remaining attorney to continue to act on their own.
If you allow your attorneys to act separately — also known as ‘severally’ — you could choose to have them look after different parts of your property. For example, 1 person could be responsible for the house and another responsible for your bank accounts.
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 the 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.
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.