Powers of Attorney (Part I)
Powers of Attorney are a vital, yet often overlooked part of managing one’s personal and financial affairs. There is a tendency to speak of estate planning in terms of wills, life insurance and taxation, but having effective Powers of Attorney is equally important. In fact, they may be even more significant, because unlike a will, a Power of Attorney affects you while you are still alive, particularly if you are ever in the unfortunate position of no longer being able to make decisions on your own.
Simply put, a Power of Attorney (POA) is a written document by which you (the donor) grant to another (the attorney) the power to act on your behalf in conducting your affairs so that you decide who decides. This “attorney” can be any trusted individual who is mentally competent and of legal age.
There are two types of POA’s: Powers of Attorney for Property, which deal with your financial affairs, and Powers of Attorney Personal Care, which authorize an attorney to make decisions concerning your health care, living arrangements and personal safety. These are also often referred to as living wills, directives, mandates, authorizations or representation agreements, depending on the province and have become increasing popular due to our aging population and the development of medical technology that has the ability to keep a body alive with no quality of life.
The terminology and legal requirements for POA’s vary from province to province, so it is important to obtain independent professional advice concerning them. While it is possible to draft a POA from a kit, it is generally recommended that you obtain independent professional advice, and review the terms of your POA regularly, along with your will.