Without a lasting power of attorney, no one will have the legal authority to help you if you become unable to manage your own matters.

However, the number of investigations into abuse of power has increased in the last two years. How can you prevent this?

Can my attorney abuse their power?

Most of the problems which are labelled "abuse" could be avoided if attorneys had a greater understanding of the correct way to use their powers. In the absence of this knowledge, it is remarkably easy for an attorney to make a genuine mistake.

For example, many attorneys are unaware that they should keep annual accounts of the financial transactions they make. Another common stumbling block is a genuine belief that that they are able to make gifts on behalf of the person they act for. In fact, the legislation and the permission of the court is required for anything other than "customary", for example Christmas or birthday gifts or, "occasional", such as wedding gifts.

Is the appointment of an attorney just a minefield and best avoided?

The simple answer is "no", as long as your attorney is trustworthy and understands the breadth and scope of their powers. If they do, their appointment is likely to prove very beneficial.

How can I best protect myself against attorney misunderstandings or abuse?

Although many people opt to fill in a Lasting Power of Attorney form online, this process does not provide the advice that a qualified legal advisor can give, including the parameters that you can set for your own attorney to be bound by. For example, you can specify limitations on your attorney's powers up to a certain sum or limit, or impose bars on certain actions such as the sale of your property.

- Megan Seabourne is a partner at award-winning law firm VWV, which has offices on Clarendon Road, Watford.