Dementia is one of the things most feared about ageing, even though it has a relatively small incidence. Although it is far more likely you will not suffer from dementia later in life, it pays to be prepared. When it comes to taking care of your financial affairs, a good way to prepare is to set up an Enduring Power of Attorney, or EPA.

An EPA is a legal document giving someone the power to act on your behalf if you become mentally incapacitated, either through dementia or some other form of illness. The reason it is important to do this is that, once you are assessed by a health practitioner as unable to make decisions yourself, no-one else can deal with your affairs - not even your partner or children - without an order from the Family Court. Going to Court is an expensive, time-consuming and stressful process which is best avoided.

There are two types of EPAs: one for your money and property and one for your personal welfare. Your appointed attorneys can pay your bills, look after your bank account, sell your property on your behalf, approve medical treatment or make arrangements to move you to a rest home.

It goes without saying that the person or people you appoint in the role of attorney need to be worthy of your trust. An extra safeguard for a money and property EPA is to appoint two people who must act together on your behalf. Under an EPA, an attorney can only act on your behalf once you have been assessed as being mentally incapacitated.

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To set up EPAs you will need independent legal advice. It is best to get them in place while you are still young, before you lose your marbles.

*Liz Koh is an authorised financial adviser.
The advice given here is general and does not constitute specific advice to any person. A disclosure statement can be obtained free by calling 0800 273 847. For free e-books see moneymax.co.nz and moneymaxcoach.com