What is a Power of Attorney?


The Powers of Attorney Act 2003 (NSW) provides for a person to appoint another person as their attorney to make financial and contractual decisions on their behalf. The document granting a power of attorney is a prescribed form under the Act.

general power of attorney does not require a solicitor’s certificate however, it ceases to be of effect if you lose mental capacity (like where you are in a coma or suffer from dementia).

An enduring power of attorney on the other hand continues to be effective if you were to suffer such an incapacity. For this reason, an enduring power of attorney must be explained to you and witnessed by a lawyer who will provide a certificate in the prescribed form. We usually recommend an enduring power of attorney so that if some event happened to you that affected your capacity, your attorney would still be able to assist you.

If you are suffering from any illness, have deteriorating health, are going overseas or interstate or just want peace of mind, appointing an attorney to assist you to manage your affairs is generally a good idea.


The nominated attorney has the ability to decide whether or not to accept that role by signing it.

You can choose when your power of attorney is to take effect. It can be restricted to only take effect if a registered medical practitioner certifies that you are of unsound mind, upon some other event (such as whilst you are overseas), from a date you choose or, it can operate immediately (for convenience).

You can give the power of attorney for specific purpose (for example to assist with the sale or purchase of a specific property or to attend an auction and bid on your behalf), for a specified time (for example, between 2 dates) and you can give directions on how powers are to be exercised (such as not to bid above a certain level or to only sell for a certain reserve price).

You can have a power of attorney for situations of necessity, like where you are ill or absent, or simply for convenience, but you have to appoint someone you trust without reservation.

An attorney may not use the principal’s monies or assets for gifts or benefits to the attorney or third parties unless this is specifically authorised in the document granting the power of attorney


Provided you remain of sound mind, you can revoke a power of attorney at any time by signing a form of revocation and providing the attorney with that revocation.

The New South Wales Civil & Administrative Tribunal can review or revoke a person’s appointment as a power of attorney and can make a financial management order appointing a new attorney (or attorneys) or by appoint a representative of the NSW Trustee & Guardian if it is considered that your attorney not making appropriate decisions on your behalf.


A power of attorney must be registered at the Land & Property Information Division of the New South Wales Department of Lands if it is being used for dealing with land in NSW, such as selling, transferring, mortgaging property and the like.


Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to estate planning, business succession or any other commercial law matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.