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HomeFarming News‘Next of kin is highly misunderstood in this country’
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘Next of kin is highly misunderstood in this country’

Safeguarding Ireland is urging the public to make an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA), to safeguard and reduce adult abuse.

In a previous article on That’s Farming, Fionnuala Cullinane, solicitor at Comyn Kelleher Tobin, explained what an Enduring Power of Attorney is and why we might need one.

New RED C research has found that just 6% of Irish adults have an EPA in place.

This, Safeguarding Ireland says, leaves people at greater risk of abuse and exploitation if they lack the capacity to make decisions due to illness, disability or frailty.

It is spearheading a nationwide public awareness campaign this week to encourage more adults to plan ahead, talk with their solicitors and make an Enduring Power of Attorney.

RED C was commissioned to conduct a survey on a nationally representative sample of adults (1,000 people) on the understanding of and attitudes to EPAs.

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The main reasons why the vast majority of adults had not made an EPA included:

  • 36% – never thought about it;
  • 27% – had no current concerns about their capacity and believed they did not need it;
  • 12% – believed they were too young to need one;
  • 9% – didn’t understand why they would need one;
  • 5% – did not know who they would appoint;
  • 4% – were concerned that it would be expensive.
Legal clarity

Safeguarding Ireland chairperson, Patricia Rickard-Clarke, says the level of take up of EPAs is closer to 30-40% in other European countries, and she encouraged “much greater” take up in Ireland.

“An EPA gives legal clarity. It makes people’s wishes and preferences known, and they can be followed.”

“It reduces confusion, tension and problems in families including financial abuse and misuse of property and personal welfare.”

“The vast majority of people are honest, but unfortunately, international research has shown that up to 10% of people are dishonest in their use of another person’s money or property.”

Making an EPA

To make an EPA, people must make an appointment with a solicitor and appoint their most trusted person with authority to make future decisions about their finances, property and personal welfare if needed.

An EPA also sets out what decisions the appointed person, or attorney, can make and provides guidance on the person’s wishes and preferences.”

“Having an EPA in place is not just better for the person themselves. It is also much better for family, friends and professionals.”

Next of Kin  

Safeguarding Ireland warns of widespread misunderstanding of ‘Next of Kin’. Rickard-Clarke says when there is no EPA in place, there are risks.

Close family members may be asked to help with decisions as a ‘next of kin’.

“However, next of kin is highly misunderstood in this country. A next of kin has no legal authority.”

“A next of kin may not know a person’s wishes, and in some cases, may abuse their position and theft and crime occurs.

Safeguarding Ireland, therefore, encourages all adults to make an EPA and to safeguard themselves against future risk of “adult abuse”.

In terms of uptake of EPAs, the RED C survey found:

  • 6% of people said they currently have an Enduring Power of Attorney;
  • Take-up was highest among 18-34-year-olds at 8%, followed by those aged 55+ at 7% and 9% for those over 65s. It was lower for middle-age cohorts at just 4%;
  • Higher-income social class groupings were much more likely to have an EPA at 11%;
  • Uptake was higher in Dublin at 9%, and it was “notably” lower in Connacht / Ulster at 3%.
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