Powers of Attorney
What is a Power of Attorney for Personal Care?
A Power of Attorney for Personal Care is a written document in which you give someone the power to make decisions about your personal care should you become unable to make these decisions yourself.
Personal care can include your health care, medical treatment, diet, housing, clothing, hygiene, and safety. Although the person you give this power to is called your “attorney,” it does not mean that they are your lawyer. Usually your attorney is your spouse, a relative or a close friend.
Purpose of a Power of Attorney for Personal Care
The main purpose of a Power of Attorney for Personal Care is to give you control and peace of mind. It lets you appoint someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf, and it ensures that your health will be in the hands of someone you have personally chosen, as opposed to someone appointed by the court.
It also gives you a chance to determine the kind of care you may or may not want. For example, you may want to specifically request a certain kind of medical treatment over another. In this way, a Power of Attorney for Personal Care is often similar to a Living Will.
Difference between a Power of Attorney for Personal Care and a Living Will
A Living Will is a document that expresses whether and how you want to be kept alive by medical machines if there is little hope of your recovery. In it, a person will generally indicate what type of treatment they are willing to undergo, and at what point they would like medical treatments to be discontinued. Though a Living Will can be in any written form, it often forms part of a Power of Attorney for Personal Care.
The main reason to have powers of attorney is to ensure that upon the grantor’s incapacity, the person the grantor appointed as the attorney would act on behalf of the grantor; otherwise the Ontario Government will in effect become the attorney. Your family and loved ones will undoubtedly suffer heartache if you become incapacitated; they will most likely suffer headache as well, due to administrative and bureaucratic obstacles they will encounter if you do not have valid powers of attorney,
Regardless of age or health, powers of attorney are inexpensive, simple documents that can save your family and friends a lot of grief—a worthwhile investment.
What is a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property?
A Power of Attorney for Property is a written document in which you give someone the power to make decisions about your property and finances if you become unable to make these decisions yourself. For example, your Attorney for Property could be responsible for taking care of your banking matters, managing your investments, running your business, buying and selling real estate on your behalf, or paying your monthly bills. The only thing that you could not appoint an attorney to do is to write your Will. Although the person you give this power to is called your “attorney,” it does not mean that they are your lawyer. Most often, your attorney is your spouse, a relative, or a close friend.
What can your Attorney for Property do?
The kinds of things that your attorney can do depends entirely on how much power you give them. You could give a general Power of Attorney for Property that covers all of your property and financial affairs. Or, you could give a more specific Power of Attorney for Property that allows the attorney to handle only some of your affairs. For example, you could even limit the Power of Attorney to a single real estate transaction while you are out of the country.
You must clearly outline what you are allowing your attorney to do, and when you are allowing them to do it. For example, often people wish to prepare a Power of Attorney in case they become unable to take care of certain things as they get older. If you only want your Power of Attorney to take effect at some point in the future, or upon a specific occurrence, you must clearly state this.
How long does your Power of Attorney for Property last?
If you do not limit your Power of Attorney in any way, then it continues to have effect until your death. In fact, you may often hear a Power of Attorney being called a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property. This means that the Power of Attorney continues to have effect even if you become mentally incompetent. If you have an old Power of Attorney, you should check with a lawyer to determine if it will have effect should you become mentally incompetent.
Who can give a Power of Attorney for Property?
There are certain rules about who can give a Power of Attorney for Property, and who can be appointed as an attorney. To give a Power of Attorney for Property, you must:
- be 18 years of age or older,
- be mentally capable,
- be aware of the property you own and its general value,
- understand what it means to appoint an attorney,
- know what authority you are giving your attorney, and
- you must understand the possibility that the attorney could misuse the power you are giving them.
Who can be an Attorney for Property?
Your attorney must be someone who is 18 years of age or older and mentally competent. Although it may be best to select someone who has some knowledge of financial matters, above all, you should select someone you know well and trust.
You can appoint more than one attorney, and you can also name an alternate attorney who would step in if the main attorney was unable to act for some reason. If you are uncomfortable selecting a family member or friend to be your attorney, you may also want to consider selecting a trust company to be your attorney for financial matters. Often people choose trust companies because they are professional and impartial.