A power of attorney (PoA) is a very important legal document that protects your family should you become incapacitated, ill, or mentally incapable of making sound decisions. By appointing an ”attorney”, they will have the ability to make legal, financial, and health decisions on your behalf (please refer to your provincial legal guidelines and a legal professional to ensure your power of attorney document is crafted correctly). An attorney can be anyone you trust and feel would be the best caretaker of you and your interests, should the inevitable happen.
To create a power of attorney, you must be mentally capable at the time you sign any type of such document, for it to be valid. In general, to be mentally capable means that you are able to understand financial and legal decisions and can appreciate the consequences of making these decisions. The exact legal definition of mental capacity will vary based on the laws in each province or territory, but the general concept remains the same.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF HAVING A PoA?
- Important legal and financial decisions can be made on your behalf when you are incapacitated in some way and cannot make them yourself
- You enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have appointed someone trustworthy, and of your choosing, to handle your affairs
- Your family will also have peace of mind knowing that they, along with the “attorney”, can make hard decisions without getting legal authorities involved. So any decisions can be made swiftly; during dire times, when necessary
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A PoA?
If you do not have a power of attorney set up, your family will not be able to get access to or deal with your assets while you are alive/incapacitated. For example, unless your bank accounts are in joint names with your spouse, the bank may freeze your accounts and not let anyone, including your spouse and children, access them until an alternative form of authority is provided. Once you create it, and your power of attorney is executed, it should be securely stored with all your other important documents.
Without a power of attorney established, either the provincial 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’s a lot easier to already have a power of attorney for property in place. Preparation is the necessity of life.
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