Most of us go about our busy daily lives paying bills, filing taxes, doing the banking, and opening our mail without giving a lot of thought to legal issues like power of attorney. But just imagine if you become mentally incapable of making decisions on your own, or leave the country for a lengthy period of time and need someone to manage your affairs? It’s something we should all think about in case life changes.

Power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to appoint an adult of your choice to manage your finances if you are unable to. In Ontario, there are three kinds of power of attorney:
1. A continuing power of attorney (CPOA) refers to financial affairs and allows your selected person to act on your behalf, even if you are mentally incapable;

2. A non-continuing power of attorney covers you financial affairs but not if you are mentally incapable;

3. A power of attorney for personal care (POAPC) covers decisions for your personal care, such as medical decisions and housing.

A CPOA allows your appointed person to assume responsibility for a long list of your personal day-to-day tasks, such as paying bills, banking, looking after your pets, opening your mail, and even voting on your behalf. Although we likely assume that a spouse or adult child could automatically take these tasks on if something happened, legally, that isn’t the case. Financial institutions and even the cable company can’t reveal your personal information due to privacy laws. Even opening your mail isn’t legal without a CPOA.

A continuing power of attorney will also cover your financial affairs even if you are mentally incapable of doing so, even temporarily. However, a power of attorney for personal care is required if you want your agent to make decisions for your health care arrangements.

Why might you need a non-continuing power of attorney? If, for example, you planned to sail around the world for six months, you will need someone to pay the bills, call a plumber, and generally look after your finances and property while you are away and don’t have access to online banking. This type of document usually will have a time period stipulated and after that time, will no longer be valid.

For more information, speak to a lawyer for more information on this important legal document.