The UK Rules
Helping to Make Decisions on Behalf of Another

Making Decisions for Someone Else

You can help make decisions on behalf of someone if the person appoints you. Find out how to make decisions for others and how to check if a person has mental capacity.

When Can You Help Others Make Decisions?

UK law allows appointed people to help others make decisions. It applies whether that person lacks mental capacity or not.

So, someone can choose another person (or persons) to make decisions, and act on the outcome of certain decisions, on their behalf. You can get appointed to:

Note: If the person is lacking mental capacity, you can make an application to court to help someone else make decisions.

Outside of the UK court systems, there are extra restrictions on when a person can appoint someone else. The appointee must have mental capacity when they choose another for short-term or long-term help with decision making.

Short-term Appointments for Help

Being asked to help make decisions about someone else's money or property is not uncommon. But, a short-term appointment would only last for a limited time (e.g. while they are away on business). The person can choose to appoint someone else with (either):

Note: Unless the person uses a solicitor they would need to buy the document from a newsagent when making an ordinary power of attorney.

Long-term Appointments for Help

Being appointed with a lasting power of attorney means you can help someone make long-term ongoing decisions about (either one or both):

Note: Lasting power of attorney (LPA) replaced the EPA on the 1st of October 2007. Even so, you can continue helping someone with ongoing decisions using an enduring power of attorney (EPA) made before this date.

When You Must Apply to a Court

You can apply to a court to help someone with little or no mental capacity to make decisions. When you apply to court you can choose between making a one-off or long-term decisions.

Before you apply, you can find out if someone has an attorney or a deputy acting on their behalf. If so, you would be able to ask their attorney or their deputy for help, instead.

Making One-off Decisions

If you only need to make a one off decision you can apply to ask the Court of Protection to grant permission for:

Note: You must consider whether the person made a living will (advance decision) if your appointment relates to medical treatment.

Making Long-term Decisions

In some cases, court-appointed deputies also make decisions for people who lack mental capacity. You can apply to the Court of Protection to help a person on a long-term basis with decisions as (either one or both):

How to Make Decisions on Behalf of Someone

Anyone acting as an attorney or a deputy for someone else has authority and responsibilities that include:

Helping the Donor Make Decisions

You can help someone make a decision by giving them all the details and information they need to make it. There are several ways you can make it easier for them to understand and then weigh up the information, by:

Note: It can help to use different ways to get their decision if they have difficulty speaking. Examples include blinking, nodding, pointing, and squeezing your hand.

Making Decisions in the Donor's Best Interests

As a rule, the definition of 'in their best interests' means you must make decisions that are right for the other person (not yourself). That means taking certain things into account, such as:

Note: As a rule, you should not make assumptions based on their age, ethnic background, behaviour, gender, health, or sexuality.

As part of your role of making decisions on behalf of someone else, it can also help to:

Restricting Human and Civil Rights

The decisions your make must restrict the other person's human and civil rights as little as possible. Even so, you must never make decisions on behalf of someone about certain things, like:

Note: The Mental Capacity Act 2005 guidance and subsequent code of practice has further information on making decisions for others.

Making Difficult Decisions and Disagreements

It is best to consult the person along with their family, trusted friends, and carers on the most difficult decisions. Often, arranging a 'best interests' meeting can help the appointee reach an agreement.

But, in the most challenging situations where you are still unable to agree, you can:

Checking Someone Else's Mental Capacity

As a rule, not having mental capacity is due to a problem with the way that the brain functions. Typical examples include:

Mental capacity can improve and deteriorate at different times. This is quite common with dementia and some other mental illnesses. It is not uncommon for a person to recover mental capacity (e.g. after suffering a severe stroke).

You must check whether a person has enough mental capacity to make a decision (at the time it needs making). They will be able to make the decision if they can:

Note: Making a bad or 'strange' decision by itself is not necessarily grounds for you to decide that a person lacks mental capacity.

Avoid making a decision on behalf of someone else if it can wait until they may be able to do it themselves. Even though the person may not be able to make a decision at a certain time, be aware that may:

Getting Expert Help to Check Mental Capacity

Consider asking the doctor (or other medical professional) to assess the mental capacity of the person. You must follow the Mental Capacity Act code of practice when checking mental capacity.

Legal Permission to Make Decisions for Others in the United Kingdom