Powers Of Attorney And Living Wills In Ontario
A power of attorney (POA) is a document that gives authority to someone trustworthy who you appoint to act and make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to act for yourself.
A POA is often set up with the intention of being used only if you become incapable due to illness or an accident. Many of my clients do not want to imagine a time in which they may be unable to make their wishes known. However, if you become mentally incapacitated without having made powers of attorney, your family may have to deal with two major problems at once: first, the emotional impact of your incapacity; and second, the practical problem that no one may have legal authority to handle your legal and financial matters or make decisions about your personal and health care.
The legal costs that can result if you become incapacitated without leaving powers of attorney can be substantial. By comparison, the cost of having a qualified lawyer prepare personalized powers of attorney is small.
Avoiding Uncertainty And Confusion
There are different kinds of POAs in Ontario:
- A noncontinuing power of attorney for property can give a trusted adviser the power to perform a specific kind of function for you — for example, the authority to sign certain papers if you must be out of the country when they are due. These are not intended to deal with mental incapacity.
- A continuing power of attorney for property gives a trusted person the power to handle your property and finances if you are mentally incapable of doing so yourself.
- A continuing power of attorney for personal care covers the authority to make decisions about your living arrangements and medical care, including life and death decisions.
If you do not have a POA and become incapacitated, your loved ones may have to apply to a court for guardianship of you and your property. This can be very expensive and time-consuming, and it could result in family disputes. It may also result in the court appointing a guardian to whom you would not have given power of attorney.
I will help you draft POA documents that are clear and comprehensive and take into account many possible circumstances you may not have considered.
I can also help you draft a “living will” or “advance directive” as part of your POA or as a separate document. A living will sets out clearly what kinds of treatment and life support you are willing to accept and gives your representatives the peace of mind of knowing that they will be truly carrying out your wishes.