A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone the authority to make decisions on your behalf either while you are incapable or at any time. In Ontario, there are two kinds of Powers of Attorney (which are governed by the Substitute Decisions Act):
- A power of attorney for property (either continuing or non-continuing); and
- A power of attorney for personal care.
A power of attorney for property authorizes another person to act on your behalf in financial matters. Your attorney can pay your bills, complete your tax return, make a loan, collect your pension or other income, list your home and/or sign an agreement of purchase and sale on your behalf or do anything that you may legally do with your finances except sign your Will.
A continuing power of attorney for property allows someone to make financial decisions for you before and after you have become mentally incapable.
A non-continuing power of attorney for property is typically used for a specific reason and length of time such as when you are out of the country. It is automatically revoked if you become mentally incapacitated so it is not a substitute for a continuing power of attorney.
A power of attorney for personal care allows someone to make healthcare-related decisions for you if you become incapacitated. If the decision is about medical treatment or admission to a long-term care facility, a healthcare professional must determine that you are incapable before your attorney can act for you in this regard. In your power of attorney for personal care, you may state your wishes for things like organ donation and life support.
The decisions involved in acting as a power of attorney are significant and often life-altering so it is important to choose the right person to take on the responsibility. In the event that you are incapacitated but do not have a power of attorney (or if you have an improperly executed one), a court will appoint a guardian to make decisions for you. This can lead to extensive costs, delays and uncertainty for you and your loved ones. To ensure that your health and/or finances are in the hands of a person of your choosing, please contact us at Lister Beaupre LLP to assist you with preparing your Powers of Attorney. We can also assist you with preparing a Will or if you already have a Will and/or Powers of Attorney, we can review them to ensure that they still reflect your current wishes