Power Of Attorney: Why It’s So Important

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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  1. Tracey H on October 20, 2011 at 5:52 am

    Good article, but don’t leave the information about your burial in your will. Your will is usually read after the funeral/cremation so it’s too late then to know what the deceased wants done. That information (burial, cremation, hymns, whatever) should be given to someone (or everyone if there’s potential for conflict in the family) ahead of time.

    • Boomer on October 24, 2011 at 7:18 pm

      @Tracey H: Usually the executor gets a copy of the will and burial wishes can be discussed when the copy is received. Other than that, you’re right that the information should be given ahead of time.

  2. krantcents on October 20, 2011 at 8:44 am

    This is real important to do before you need it. When my mother went into asisted living, they required us to take care of these things. We were glad we diid as she started to experience dimentia, she was unable to do these things. She lived to just a few weks shy of 99 years old.

    • Boomer on October 24, 2011 at 7:20 pm

      @krantcents: It’s so easy to put off. I have seen many instances where a parent has fallen ill and can’t deal with their own finances. The banks absolutely will not allow a non-account holder access no matter how dire the circumstances.

  3. K on October 20, 2011 at 11:25 am

    I’m currently learning about wills, trusts, etc in one of my classes right now. Reading this was actually super helpful, and easier to understand than my textbook. Definitely bookmarked it, thanks!

  4. smk on October 20, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    A couple of things to be aware of: Something I learned in dealing with the VA – for my WWII veteran father’s benefits – they don’t recognize power of attorney. They want anyone who is going to help with the veteran to go through an interview/verification/education process that THEY have approve, before the VA will allow you to manage funds for the veteran. The Social Security Administration also doesn’t recognize POA. They want you to go a similar process as the VA. I was unaware of both of these policies and thought that a POA would cover any aspects of financial concern. What a headache to have to go through.

    • Boomer on October 24, 2011 at 7:24 pm

      @smk: Good information to know. Thanks. I believe that the Canadian pension and veterans administration does recognize an enduring power of attorney here.

  5. Jovie Onyema on November 16, 2011 at 3:10 am

    All this death stuff could be a little wierd when u’re thinking about it. anyhow, this article clarified to me what a power of attorney really was…

  6. SE Book on November 16, 2011 at 10:52 am

    I used to work as a legal assistant and all the things you mentioned are very important they are fairly inexpensive and can be done on diff websites.

  7. Sanchita on November 25, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    Very helpful article. Somebody please tell me the importance of power of attorny template

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