An accident or a serious illness can turn our lives upside down. Who decides that someone has lost their mental capacity? A power of attorney can ensure that your own ideas and concerns are taken seriously.
The subject of having a power of attorney becomes more of a focus as you get older. But many people forget that health is not just a question of age. Your life can change suddenly without forewarning, such as in the event of an accident. If you want to be sure that your wishes are taken into account and your loved ones are involved if these kinds of situations come to pass, you can plan ahead:
A template for a power of attorney is available from the website of our partner, the Swiss Red Cross (SRC). Plus, the instructions for the power of attorney template will help you get to grips with this topic. The SRC also offers consultations, and a chat with your GP can also help you make your decision.
A power of attorney stipulates who may make decisions in your stead. That can be your spouse or children, or also someone else you trust. The power of attorney comprises three components:
The law is strict on this point: in Switzerland, a power of attorney is only valid if it is written by hand from start to finish, dated and signed. Handwriting analysis can be carried out in case of doubt. Make sure that your power of attorney is easy to find in an emergency. You can also place it in the keeping of an official service.
You can use your power of attorney to set down how you would like all kinds of matters to be dealt with, or you can focus on matters from specific areas.
If you are not able to write your power of attorney by hand, a notary can help you to do so. They will certify that the person had full capacity at the point at which it was drawn up and that the content of the power of attorney aligns with their wishes. A fee is levied for this service; prices vary from canton to canton.
If an individual is living on their own, is widowed or cohabits with someone and does not have a power of attorney, the Child and Adult Protection Authority (CAPA) will decide whether an external guardianship is to be arranged or whether relatives will be given the authority to make decisions.
If a person in a marriage or registered partnership loses mental capacity, their spouse or partner can continue to represent them in day-to-day matters. To do so, they must live in the same household or be able to provide in-person support on a regular basis.
It is a different situation for legal matters that relate to exceptional issues: without a valid power of attorney, the state will have a say in decisions made, with CAPA authorisation required for this. This includes selling property, increasing a mortgage or accepting or renouncing an inheritance, for example.
Katharina Bühlmann works at SRC Canton of Bern and is in charge of living wills and powers of attorney. In her role, she answers questions relating to living wills and provides consultations. Katharina Bühlmann provided the editorial team with advice and input for this article.