The majority of Canadians do not know the difference between a power of attorney (PoA)  and a will but it ultimately comes down to life and death. A will protects your wishes after you have passed, whereas a power of attorney protects your needs while you are alive. 

In this article we will dive into what a power of attorney document is, so it becomes clear why you need one and how to appoint someone.

WHAT IS A POWER OF ATTORNEY? 

A power of attorney document specifically deals with your financial and legal matters. Within this legal document, you will assign a person to the role of “power of attorney”, allowing them to manage your finances – including property and bank accounts. 

This document has to be created when you have capacity and then it can be instituted when you develop an illness, or are not able to manage your affairs (legal or financial). It is an absolute necessity to have a power of attorney in place, if you are terminally ill, otherwise your family will not be able to move your assets if needed (for medical reasons, for example) until you have passed on. 

If you receive a government pension based on your annual tax filings, and due to a lack of capacity or competency you are unable to file your taxes, then your pension may be adversely affected. A general power of attorney, will allow the person you have assigned to the role to act on your behalf at any time, with the benefit always to the individual granting the PoA.  When acting for someone under a power of attorney, you must always act in their best interests.

Please refer to your province’s legal guidelines for specific power of attorney requirements. Contacting a legal professional within your home province is the best route.

WHOM SHOULD YOU APPOINT?

You can assign a trusted family member or a friend who you feel has genuine care for your well-being. Logistically, try to assign someone that lives close by you, because the tasks that will need to be completed will typically be close to where you live.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T HAVE A PoA?

Without a power of attorney, either the Office of Public Guardian and Trustee will appoint an Attorney, or someone might make a court application to become the attorney. In either scenario it will take time and money to have an attorney appointed. It is a great deal simpler to already have your power of attorney for property in place just so you are ready if something does happen.

The content on the ReadyWhen Platform is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice or an opinion of any kind.