Step 2.2

How do I get legal permission to act on someone’s behalf?

Acting on someone else's behalf

Whether you are making your own aged care plans or you are acting on behalf of someone else, you should have some important legal arrangements in place.  

You will either:

  • give permission to someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf in the event that you are no longer able to make decisions yourself


  • obtain permission to act and make decisions on another person’s behalf

many people need to consult a legal practitioner to put the arrangements in place that allow someone else to make certain important decisions on their behalf, should they lose the capacity to make those decisions themselves.

It is important to have thought about this and made the arrangements for substitute decision makers before the need potentially arises.

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View transcript of video here

Some people are especially well organised and put these arrangements in place years before they ever think they could need them.  Even if you have done that, you should review your documents now in case things have changed. 

What is 'capacity'?

We make decisions for ourselves all our adult lives and we expect to continue to make our own decisions, regardless of our age.

But there are some situations and certain kinds of decisions where it may not be possible; particularly if we become unwell.  In legal terms, your ability to make important decisions yourself is referred to as your ‘capacity’.

You are considered to have the capacity to make decisions if you can:

  • understand the facts involved 
  • understand the main choices
  • weigh up the consequences of the choices 
  • understand how the consequences affect you


  • communicate your decision

Whether or not you have capacity to make a decision can obviously depend on a variety of factors including the kind of decision it is.

It is rare for someone to not have capacity for any decision making at all – usually only if they are unconscious or have a severe cognitive disability.

The kinds of decisions where it is important to have 'capacity are when your health, independence, or financial situation might be put at risk. e.g. you want to have capacity to make a decision about selling your home or having a major medical treatment or operation.

Types of legal representatives

There are several different types of legal representatives you can appoint as your substitute decision makers, depending on what roles and responsibilities you want them to have.  

There is some variation in the terms and titles used in different states and territories but the main roles include:


  • Nominee

These roles are explained in detail in the next section - 2.3 Your substitute decision makers

Aged care home costs have changed


As part of the Commonwealth Government’s aged care reform process, which is still underway, new rules have come in regarding what you can be expected to pay when you go into an aged care home (nursing home).

One thing that has not changed is that the government ensures you will never miss out on the care you need because you can’t afford it. If you can’t afford to pay for aged care services, the Commonwealth Government will cover the costs of your government subsidised aged care home (nursing)

Top Tip

If you are acting in a decision making role for someone else who needs aged care, you should ensure you have copies of the relevant documentation proving your legal status.

Looking for aged care?

Did you know it could be 13 weeks or more to secure an aged care home?

agedcare101 makes aged care easy with 9 steps to an aged care home. You’re likely feeling the pressure to do something now but it’s equally important to invest the time to complete each of the steps and get the best result.

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A special thanks to our contributors

Jill Donaldson


Jill has been practicing as a clinical physiotherapist for 30 years. For the last 13 years she has worked solely in the Aged Care sector in more than 50 metropolitan and regional facilities. Jill has also toured care facilities in the US and Africa and is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff who care for them. She researches and writes for DCM Media.

Chris Baynes

DCM Media, agedcare101

Chris has been a journalist and publisher in the retirement village and aged care sectors for 11 years. He has visited over 250 retirement villages and 50 aged care facilities both within Australia and internationally. Chris is a regular speaker at industry conferences plus is a frequent radio commentator.

Annie Donaldson

Nurse and Carer

Annie has a long career in both nursing and the media. She has planned and co-ordinated the medical support from both international TV productions and major stadium events. In recent years she has been a primary family carer plus involved in structured carer support.