What is a Power of Attorney?
As mentioned above, a Will is a document that contains your wishes about your estate and takes effect from the date of your death. A Power of Attorney, on the other hand, is a document that contains your instructions regarding your personal care and financial affairs and takes effect while you are still alive but are mentally incompetent or incapable. In the Power of Attorney document, you simply give somebody (preferably a spouse or someone you trust implicitly) the authority to make all decisions on your behalf concerning all aspects of your life.
Two kinds of Powers of Attorney
Under Ontario law, each individual should have two (2) separate Powers of Attorney—one dealing with the financial aspect of their life (called “The Continuing Power of Attorney for Management of Property”) and the other dealing with their health and welfare (called “The Power of Attorney for Personal Care”). The latter is also sometimes referred to as a Living Will.
Why have a Power of Attorney?
The importance of drawing up Powers of Attorney is that they allow you to designate, in advance, who you wish to look after both your estate and your health. Without these documents, for example, if you became or were assessed as mentally incompetent, your spouse or any other family member would have to apply to the courts to be appointed as an attorney—a procedure which could be both expensive and time consuming—in order to have access to your estate.