Talking about tomorrow


Guardianship, Powers of Attorney and intervention orders

If you are the parent or carer of someone over 16, who needs help to make, communicate or carry out decisions, there are three ways to ensure you can act for them if necessary.

It’s important you know the differences and which is right for you.

What’s the difference?

  Guardianship Powers of Attorney Intervention orders
How long does it last? Decided by the Sheriff Court. Has to be renewed or reconsidered later as directed. Indefinite. For as long as the person granting it wants it to. Ends when the action it is granted for is completed.
Who grants it? Sheriff The individual themselves Sheriff
Cost Can be high, though Legal Aid may be available Much cheaper than guardianship application Same as for guardianship
What does it allow you to do? Make decisions in someone’s best interests and act for them Act for/on behalf of someone, to communicate or carry out their wishes where necessary Make a specific decision or carry out a one-off task
What does it cover? Two categories of powers: health and welfare, and property and finances. Continuing Attorney covers property and financial affairs. Welfare Attorney covers care arrangements and health issues As for guardianship, but for specific one-off tasks or decisions.
Who needs it? Someone doctors decide is “incapable” according to the definition in the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000, and therefore unable to grant Powers of Attorney Anyone – with or without a disability – who may need support now or in the future to manage their affairs or communicate their wishes. As for guardianship.
How do you set it up? Apply through a solicitor to the Sheriff Court. Requires medical and other reports to confirm incapacity and advise on appropriate powers. The person has to do this themselves. A solicitor draws up draft documents that can be amended to meet someone’s needs. They need to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. As for guardianship.
When do you set it up? When someone doesn’t have capacity. Must be while someone still has capacity. When someone doesn’t have capacity.
Who can be a guardian, attorney or intervener? Anyone can apply to be a guardian. The Sheriff decides whether an application is suitable or not. Anyone the person chooses, so long as they are over 16. As for guardianship.
How many can you have? Usually one or two, but the Sheriff decides. As many as you like. As for guardianship.
How long does it take? In practice it can take over a year to appoint guardians. Advice is to apply 3 months before required. Usually a few weeks to be prepared and signed, but several months to register unless there is a real need for urgency As for guardianship.


General Principles

The Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 defines the principles all guardians, attorneys and intervenors should follow. They must:

  • Ensure actions are necessary and beneficial to the person’s wellbeing and/or finances.
  • Make sure actions are the minimum needed to achieve the purpose (least restrictive to the person).
  • Take into account present and past wishes, and do everything possible to determine these.
  • Consult relevant others (e.g. other guardians, nearest relatives).
  • Encourage the person to develop skills that will reduce dependency on a guardian.



Real life stories

Guardianship – a parent’s experience

Karen’s son is 18. She was granted guardianship for both finance and health and welfare “The first thing to be aware of is how long ...

When the police get involved

The police were called to Lesley’s son David, then aged 18, when an incident at a local swimming pool escalated. She describes what happened, and ...