Setting up an enduring power of attorney used to be free. That came to an end in 2008 when the law was changed to clamp down on attorneys misusing their powers. Anyone setting up an enduring power today has to get legal advice. This means there'll usually be a bill to pay.

The requirement for the donor to get legal advice has sparked criticism the process is now too costly. The way the law's been interpreted means a couple who want to give each other enduring power of attorney need to get separate legal advice – and that's meant going to two different law practices or trustee corporations and paying two bills.

The government's responded to complaints by tweaking the law. An amendment introduced in July 2010 means two people appointing each other as mutual attorneys can now seek advice from the same law firm or trustee corporation. This should make the process cheaper – at least for some.

However, you could still be faced with a bill from more than one firm. That's because the law requires the person giving legal advice to be independent from the person being appointed as attorney. If the legal adviser has previously acted for the attorney, then there could be a potential conflict of interest and another adviser will have to be found.

Senior Citizens Minister John Carter says a review of the legislation is scheduled. But that won't happen until 2013. We think the government needs to look at making the process cheaper and easier for everyone.

Keeping down costs

Some law firms may be willing to prepare an enduring power of attorney for free if you're doing other business with them. But in most cases, you'll have to pay. You should be able to speed up the process and cut down on costs by doing the groundwork before you seek advice. (See Attorney for property, Personal care and welfare, and Appointing an attorney for more information.)

Fees

If you use a trustee company to prepare an enduring power of attorney, charges start from around $150 to $290 depending on the company. If you use a lawyer, fees will usually be based on an hourly rate or a task-based rate.

Before you sign-up, ask what the fees are likely to be. Lawyers must provide you with information in advance about their charges. Some community law centres may prepare enduring powers for a small charge. Check with your nearest centre.

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