Although it’s grim to think about being incapacitated by illness or an accident, it does happen and it’s best to be prepared just in case.  When you appoint a person with “power of attorney”, you trust that person to make decisions for you in case you’re unable to because of illness, accident or absence.

You can appoint you partner, an adult child or a friend as long as they are willing to act on your behalf and are trustworthy. You may even prefer to select an impartial power of attorney from a trust company.

Here’s why it’s so important. Without a power of attorney, no one can sign legal documents or cheques for you. This means bills can be left unpaid, and your dependents may go indefinitely without the benefit of your financial support.  Your assets will be locked up.  If you have people depending on you, there’s nothing they can do except apply to the court for the power to act, unless you’ve given someone legal permission to take care of your financial business.

You don’t need a lawyer in most provinces to appoint someone.  You can even sign a power of attorney document at your bank for your accounts there.  A notary can offer a more encompassing one.  It’s a good idea to have a professional attorney from law firms like Legalzoom review the document to ensure that everything’s clear and you haven’t missed anything.

Be careful whom you appoint and how much power you give to your attorney.  A power of attorney is a very powerful tool and gives permission to the appointee to do whatever you can do, except make a will.  You can give unlimited power or it could be restricted to a period of time, type of property or specific conditions.

Be aware that a power of attorney is void upon your death.

Living Wills

A power of attorney for property takes care of your property.  A living will takes care of you.  It’s a document that outlines life-support measures you would or would not accept, or other details regarding your medical care in case you’re unable to make decisions for yourself.

Living wills do not have full legal status in some provinces and the rules can very by province.  Without a living will, decisions concerning your body and your life could be made by a provincial government agency or by medical professionals.

Bury Me Out On The Lone Prairie

Don’t let the people you love try to guess how you’d like to leave this world.  You may not want to think about your funeral but if you do, you’ll spare others the pain of making what should really be your decision.  When my father-in-law passed away there was a disagreement as to whether he wanted to be cremated or buried in the family plot intact.  It caused a severe rift in family relationships.  Be sure to include this information in your will.

Pay Now, Die Later

You can plan your funeral in advance so that when you die and your family is in mourning, they will know exactly what you wanted.  You can arrange everything in advance and pre-pay your funeral.  Your will should contain all the details and costs so that no one has to guess what has been done and what still needs to be done.

It’s important to think about these things because whatever you do to lessen the pain of your death for the people you care about is a loving and generous act.

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