Usually, we here at Downtown Notary attempt to be somewhat humorous in our blog posts, because let’s be honest, notary stuff is typically not the most interesting. In this blog post, we are going to take a more serious turn to discuss something that is very important to us: powers of attorney.
A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone else - your “attorney” - the power to act on your behalf. In Ontario, there are three kinds of powers of attorney - a power of attorney for personal care, a continuing power of attorney for property and a non-continuing power of attorney for property. In this blog post, we will only be discussing powers of attorney for personal care and continuing powers of attorney for property.
A power of attorney for personal care lets your attorney make personal care decisions on your behalf if you become mentally incapable of making them for yourself. Your attorney becomes your substitute decision-maker for making personal care and medical decisions, such as whether you will receive or decline certain medical treatments. A power of attorney for personal care ensures that a person you trust is making important decisions about your care, and will also hep to make sure that your personal care wishes are respected.
A continuing power of attorney for property lets your attorney manage your financial affairs and allows the person you name to act for you even if you become mentally incapable. This includes managing your bank accounts, making bill and rent payments and making purchases on your behalf. A continuing power of attorney for property means that a person you trust will be able to oversee your finances when you are unable to.
For many of us, ourselves included, talking about, let alone planning for, some of the more difficult stuff in life - what happens to us when we get sick or otherwise become unable to care for ourselves - is very hard. Maybe we feel that we have lots of time to figure that out, or perhaps there is a bit of denial that we will ever need to deal with a situation like that. Maybe it’s just not something we want to think about.
Unfortunately, not taking the time to plan for the what-ifs when we are most capable of planning for them often means that by the time our situations change and we need someone else to take care of our personal care and finances, making powers of attorney may be very difficult or no longer possible. The result is that we or our friends and family are left scrambling to figure out how to pay our bills or make sure our medical care wishes are respected. This makes difficult situations even harder for everyone.
We here at Downtown Notary want to encourage you, maybe even challenge you a little bit, to start talking and planning for the what-ifs now. A great place to start is making powers of attorney. Creating powers of attorney is a very easy and simple way to start planning for the more difficult what-ifs in life, and will give you piece of mind knowing that someone you trust will be able to take care of your personal care and finances when you are not able to.
In Ontario, the Ministry of the Attorney General has created a free, very simple, easy to use power of attorney kit that contains templates for both a power of attorney for personal care and a continuing power of attorney for property. All you need to do is properly completed and sign the documents and have them witnessed by two people who are not your family members and they will be legally binding.
We recommend that you have your powers of attorney witnessed and notarized by a notary public. Firstly, notarizing your powers of attorney assures others that the signature on the documents is genuine and the documents are legitimate. Secondly, many financial institutions will not accept powers of attorney for property unless they are notarized. We suggest that you contact your bank or financial institution for more information on their specific requirements for validating continuing powers of attorney for property.
This is a very high level overview of powers of attorney. For more detailed information, we suggest you read the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee’s “Powers of Attorney and Living Wills: Some Questions and Answers”. Please also be aware that this blog post does not in any way constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for speaking to a lawyer. You may wish to speak to a lawyer regarding any specific questions you may have about powers of attorney.