The agriculture sector is one of the riskiest to work in, with 23,000 people working in this industry suffering ill-health or a non-fatal injury each year according to Health & Safety Executive figures.

As well as the hazards farmers face working with heavy machinery and vehicles, toxic chemicals and unpredictable livestock, they are also at risk when working at height, near pits or silos. Farmers carry a heavy weight of responsibility on their shoulders, and if they become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions for themselves, it could be catastrophic for the farming business.

Risk management is part of every strategic plan, and Laura Carter, Solicitor & agricultural law specialist at Pearsons & Ward Solicitors in Malton explains why an increasing number of farmers are registering lasting powers of attorney to ensure someone trusted can run their affairs if they are out of action.

There are two kinds of lasting power of attorney:

• a financial lasting power of attorney gives your attorneys the power to manage matters such as running your bank accounts, dealing with your investments, paying wages and bills, applying for benefits, purchasing supplies, and selling produce or property.

• a health and welfare lasting power of attorney lets your attorneys make decisions for you regarding personal care and medical treatments, as well as decisions about where you should live, or whether to continue life-sustaining treatment.

Drawing up a lasting power of attorney allows you to set out in writing who you would like to manage your business and personal affairs and gives guidance to your attorneys on how you would like your affairs to be dealt with.

The effect on your farming business if you become incapacitated and do not have a lasting power of attorney in place can be very damaging, especially if decisions need to be made quickly. An application would need to be made to the Court of Protection to have someone appointed as your deputy to run your affairs. This process can take months and is much more costly than registering a lasting power of attorney.

You can choose family members, friends or professionals to be your attorneys, provided they are over 18, have mental capacity and are not bankrupt or subject to a debt relief order. This means that you can rest assured that business matters will be handled by someone who is familiar with your farm and the way that you run it.

More than one attorney can be appointed and in such circumstances you can allow them to act jointly or to make joint or individual decisions. This latter option provides more flexibility as decisions can still be made if one attorney is not available. If an attorney is appointed on a joint basis only the power of attorney cannot be used if one of them dies or becomes seriously ill and unable to act.

How we can help

An attorney acting under a lasting power of attorney has a lot of responsibility and important power over you and your affairs. It is imperative therefore that you check that they are willing and able to take on the role and that you have chosen the right person/people for the job.

As specialist agricultural solicitors we can talk through your requirements and objectives, assisting you to choose the right attorney(s) for you.

All farms are structured differently, and our agricultural lawyers are adept at drawing up a lasting power of attorney to suit your needs whether your farm is run as a sole trader, a limited company or in a partnership.

They will ensure all the paperwork is correctly filled out and that your lasting power of attorney is properly registered (and therefore valid) and one that really reflects your wishes.

For further information contact Laura Carter, in the private client team at Pearsons & Ward on Malton 01653 692247 or