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The benefits of power of attorney: why you should have one

Guest post by Willful, Canada’s quickest and easiest online estate planning platform. Make your will and power of attorney documents in under 20 minutes, from the comfort of your home.

It’s commonly believed that estate planning only includes preparing for your death. While making a will is incredibly important, also to consider what would happen if you experienced an accident or personal medical emergency. What would you want your care to look like? Who would make decisions on your behalf?

The best way to protect yourself in these unexpected situations is by making a power of attorney

With an enduring power of attorney (or POA), you appoint an ‘attorney’ to represent you in the event of an accident or personal medical emergency. Depending on where you live, power of attorney documents may also be known as living wills, personal directives, health care directives, or representation agreements. 

Know that in this case, ‘attorney’ (or sometimes called a ‘representative’ or ‘agent’) doesn’t refer to a lawyer. Instead, your attorney is the person you have chosen to act on your behalf. Your attorney can be anyone from a spouse, a family member, or a close friend.

While you never expect your power of attorney to come into effect, having it ready in the event of an emergency can help to ensure your affairs are taken care of. Some benefits of having a power of attorney include:

1. Having someone to manage your financial and legal matters

If you’re medically unable, a power of attorney for property can do anything on your behalf with your finances.

Having an attorney means that there is someone who can pay your bills and manage your investments. They can also help you make financial decisions and collect any outstanding debt on your behalf.

2. Ensuring your property is taken care of

While a power of attorney for property can help manage your finances, they can also help manage your physical property. If you’re a homeowner, you have responsibilities like repairs, maintenance, and other bills. Your power of attorney for property is also there to help you carry out these additional duties if you were to become incapacitated.

Having a power of attorney can help provide you peace of mind that you won’t miss any important bills or mortgage payments.They may also sell, rent, renovate, or otherwise manage your property, to benefit you or your family — if they believe that’s what you would have chosen to do.

3. Making medical decisions ahead of time

With a power of attorney for personal care, you can appoint someone to make decisions related to health care, nutrition, shelter, clothing, hygiene, and safety.

In your power of attorney for personal care documents, you can also outline your wishes for pain relief and life support. This person would be responsible for communicating these wishes to your doctors if you were unable to yourself.

Choosing a power of attorney for personal care ahead of time, also allows you to share your medical and personal care choices with that individual. 

Choosing an attorney

When appointing someone to act as your power of attorney, ensure it’s someone you trust. This person should have strong judgement skills, be responsible, and be familiar with your wishes. Your attorney should also be over the age of majority in your province, as well as mentally competent.

Many individuals will name their spouse, siblings, or close friends as their attorneys.

Being someone’s attorney is a large responsibility, so It’s important to discuss this with the person you choose beforehand. It’s also recommended you create a list of backups if your first choice is unable to take on the role or changes their mind.

Making your power of attorney documents

While the idea of appointing a power of attorney can feel overwhelming, it’s easier than it sounds! There are many ways to get your power of attorney for property and power of attorney for personal care.

One of the simplest ways to make your power of attorney is using online estate planning platforms, like Willful. Their personalized platform will ask you basic life questions to ensure you’re getting the right documents and information for your life situation. Plus, all their plans include specific instructions for signing and witnessing your documents to ensure they are legally-valid in your province. (They will also let you know if your province has any requirements related to notarizing your power of attorney documents.

However, if you have complicated wishes or have specific questions about your estate plan, you may want to consult with a lawyer.

Finally, remember to regularly review all your documents to ensure they’re up-to-date and reflect your current wishes. If you’ve made your documents with a platform like Willful, you can make changes to your documents at any time for free.