Important details concerning Power of Attorney

The information for this column is taken directly from the website of the Office of the Public Guardian & Trustee for the Province of Ontario.

It’s too important for me to paraphrase so I’m putting it here for you to read.

A Power of Attorney is a legal document in which you give someone you trust (called your “attorney”) the right to make decisions for you if something happens and you are no longer able to look after matters on your own.

There are two types of Power of Attorney: Power of Attorney for Personal Care – the person you name can make decisions about your health care, housing and other aspects of your personal life (such as meals and clothing) if you become mentally incapable of making these decisions.

And Power of Attorney for Property – the person you name can make decisions about your financial affairs (including paying your bills, collecting money owed to you, maintaining or selling your house, or managing your investments).

You don’t have to create a power of attorney. But if something happens to you and you don’t have one, other arrangements will have to be made.

A family member may have the right to make certain personal care decisions, and can apply to become the guardian of your property. Alternatively, someone else — like a close friend — could apply to the court to be authorized to act for you.

If no suitable person is available, the government may have to step in, through the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee.

To sign a power of attorney you must be considered mentally capable. To be considered mentally capable of giving a power of attorney for personal care, it must be clear you understand the need to choose someone with genuine concern for your welfare, and there may be a need for that person to make personal care decisions for you. To be considered mentally capable of giving a power of attorney for property, it must be clear that: you know about your assets (what you own, what they’re worth); you are aware of your obligations to your dependants, and; you understand the authority and power you are giving to the person holding Power of Attorney.

There’s lots more on the website about mental incapacity.

In the coming weeks I’ll include more information on the two types of power of attorney. In the meantime you can look it up yourself at www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca and search for “powers of attorney”.

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