(NC) -- A power of attorney is a legal, written document that gives someone else the right to act on your behalf while you are alive. This means that if you are injured, sick, or otherwise incapacitated, someone you trust will have the legal authority to make financial decisions, such as paying bills or managing assets. Perhaps more importantly, they will have the right to determine where you will live or the kind of medical care you will receive.
While many consider powers of attorney as a decision for later stages in life, it is in fact an essential document that everyone should have, regardless of age. A 2012 survey of more than 2,000 Canadians released by LAWPRO's TitlePLUS title insurance program found that more than 70 per cent of us do not have signed powers of attorney.
“Many people believe that if they are sick or injured, friends or family can step in to make decisions on their behalf,” says Ray Leclair, the vice president of public affairs at LAWPRO. “However, this is not always the case, and in fact, without proper powers of attorney in place, your loved ones may disagree as to who should manage your care and make important decisions for you. They may even start court proceedings.”
Ontario has two types of powers of attorney: a power of attorney for personal care, which authorizes someone to take care of your physical needs, medical treatment, home care, and other related decisions; and a power of attorney for property, which authorizes a designate to manage your assets, money, homes, cars and other property.
“Powers of attorney can be complex and technical documents, and should be developed and reviewed with a lawyer who understands the potential pitfalls,” adds Leclair.
Issues to consider include conflicts between your personal care attorney and the attorney for property; whether both attorneys should be the same person or not; whether the power of attorney for property applies to all transactions, particular types or a single transaction; whether it is only effective on a triggering event, like a disability; and where power of attorney documents should be safely stored for easy access in case they are needed, amongst others.
A lawyer can help you review and prepare a power of attorney, advising you of issues or conflicts that may not be addressed in a document prepared with a do-it-yourself kit. This provides credibility to institutions such as banks, and helps ensure your needs are taken care of without delay or costly legal proceedings.