A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document where you provide someone with the authority to make decisions for you in the event that you are no longer able to handle your own affairs.
In Ontario, there are three types of Powers of Attorney:
- Power of Attorney for Personal Care: concern decisions about your health care, medical treatment, diet, housing and personal life, if you become incapable of making these decisions.
- General Power of Attorney for Property: concerns decisions about your finances (including paying your bills, collecting money owed to you, maintaining or selling your house, or managing your investments) while you are mentally incapable. If you become incapable of managing your property, the General Power of Attorney for Property ends and your attorney can no longer act for you.
- Continuing power of Attorney for Property: concerns decisions about your finances (including paying your bills, collecting money owed to you, maintaining or selling your house, or managing your investments) and lets your attorney act for you if you become mentally incapable of managing your property.
A Power of Attorney for Personal Care only takes effect if you become mentally incapable of making some or all of your personal care decisions. Generally, your attorney would decide if you are incapable of making decisions unless you name someone else in your POA to confirm that you are mentally incapable. Some people name a family doctor or another health care professional. If you do not name someone, but would like your capacity assessed, it can be confirmed by a capacity assessor. If someone else is named, your attorney cannot start making personal care decisions until the other person confirms that you are incapable.
Typically, a General and Continuing Power of Attorney for Property take effect as soon as it is signed and witnessed, unless the document states that it takes effect at a later date. You must be at least 18 years old and mentally capable when signing the General and Continuing Power of Attorney for Property for it to be valid.
Some individuals use a General Power of Attorney for Property if they are going away on a long trip and need to temporarily provide someone they trust with the authority to handle their affairs while gone.
Regardless of which POA you use, you can appoint more than one attorney. It is important to note that all your attorneys will have to agree before a decision can be made on your behalf, unless you state that decisions can be made separately.
In British Columbia, three types of powers of attorney are commonly used:
- General Power of Attorney: broad powers, ends if the person granting the power of attorney becomes mentally incapable
- Specific Power of Attorney: limits the attorney’s powers to specific tasks such as managing property
- Enduring Power of Attorney: includes broad powers like the general POA, but does not end if the person granting the power of attorney becomes mentally incapable.
It is important to note that in BC, general power of attorney and enduring power of attorney deal with property and finance. Both must be entered into while you are capable of making decisions and both end if you die.
Decisions and instructions about future health care are made on an Advance Care Plan. It is written while you are capable and can include a representation agreement where you can write your instructions and name someone to make your health and personal care decisions if you become incapable as well as instructions to your health care provider that sets out your wishes if you become incapable.
Albertans use an Enduring Power of Attorney that is an agreement between the individual and the person they are trusting to provide them with the ability to make financial decisions on their behalf, if they are no longer capable of making these decisions.
The agreement must be written when the person granting the power is capable and sets out when the appointed person can have the authority to make decisions. In the event that an individual does not have an Enduring Power of Attorney, persons wishing to become your trustee must go to court and become formally appointed.