Why you should Assign Power of Attorney (POA)
Assigning Power of Attorney is about arranging for other people to make decisions about and manage all aspects of your life should you become incapable of doing so yourself. It is essential that you do this while you still have your full mental capabilities.
You’ll need to assign two kinds of Power of Attorney:
- Continuing Power of Attorney for Property
One or more persons will look after your finances and other property if you become unable to make your own decisions. It’s called “Continuing” because the “attorney(s)” can use its power if you are no longer mentally capable. It’s also sometimes called a “Durable Power of Attorney.”
- Power of Attorney for Personal Care
If you become mentally incapable, those to whom you have transferred Power of Attorney for Personal Care will make all the decisions about how you will live, for the rest of our life. The attorney(s) will decide where you will live – at home, in a long-term care facility, in a group home. What you will eat. How you will dress. What health care to provide for you. By deciding now who your attorney or attorneys will be, you will have control over how they carry out your wishes should they ever have to assume responsibility for you.
Consult your lawyer. Many people find it convenient to draw up a will, a living will and Power of Attorney papers at the same time.
When you should assign Power of Attorney
Assign Power of Attorney now because you could become incapable of making decisions for yourself at any time.
- An estimated 500,000 Canadians have Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia.
- 16,000 Canadians with dementia are under 65*
- There are over 50,000 strokes in Canada each year, Approximately one stroke every 10 minutes.**
- 40% of stroke victims are left with moderate to severe impairment.**
Now is the time to appoint one or more trustworthy persons who will respect your wishes and will take full responsibility for your property, finances and care.
Your “attorney” need not be a lawyer. You can appoint a relative, friend or anyone else who you trust – and who agrees to take on the responsibility. Being a POA is a real and significant responsibility, one you and your appointees need to take seriously.
If you need but have not appointed Power of Attorney to anyone, the Ontario government will appoint one for you through the office of the Public Guardian. You will have no choice in the matter.
There are two major advantages to doing it now:
- You know who you trust.
- You will be able to specify exactly the powers you want to transfer.
It’s essential that you appoint your Power of Attorneys before you suffer from dementia or lose your mental functions for other reasons. It is never too soon to determine who will have Power of Attorney over your affairs.
Consider giving Power of Attorney to more than just family. Everyone’s situation is unique. Divorce, remarriages and step children, for example, can complicate things. Ultimately, inheritance will come into play. Therefore, there is always a possibility that an attorney will act in self-interest, rather than in your interest. Family members also may not have the professional qualifications or resources that may help them avoid innocent mistakes. Appointing an accountant or lawyer as one member of the attorneys team is sometimes a good idea. Even a bank can be your Power of Attorney for Property.
The people appointed should fully understand their responsibility. Being a Power of Attorney is a special responsibility. It can be a lot of work. The decisions are often significant and the “right” answer is not always clear. There are sometimes competing interests. There are always risks, such as of unintentional conflict of interest, and even accusations of stealing. Once they have agreed to the appointment, they are legally obligated to fulfill your wishes. They must manage your life and assets prudently. Keep in mind that if the friends, family or professional advisers you would like to appoint are more or less your age, they, too, could become a person with failing mental capacity – another reason you should consider appointing more than one Power of Attorney.
How to get started setting up your Power of Attorneys:
The Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General website has a free downloadable Power of Attorney kit.
Don’t wait. Get started setting up your Power of Attorney today!