Understanding Power of Attorney (PoA)

Understanding Power of Attorney (PoA)

Before making the decision to grant power of attorney (PoA), it is important to understand what it means. A PoA is a legal document in which you grant a trusted individual the authority to take care of your legal and financial matters if and when you are unable to take care of them. Paying bills, managing investments or selling your home are examples of decisions that may be made for you by this individual, also referred to as the attorney.    

There are several types of Powers of Attorney - this article is meant to give you a general understanding only. Before assigning PoA, it is of utmost importance that you understand the specifics of the Power of Attorney Act as they apply in the province where you live.

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Types of Powers of Attorney

Specific - A Specific PoA applies to a particular duty and when that duty or task is completed the Specific PoA ends. A bank PoA for example, will cover your bank accounts, and may even apply specifically to the branch where your accounts are held. A bank PoA does not cover matters such as real estate decisions, investments and debts.

General - A General PoA allows your attorney to make a broad scope of decisions including financial and property decisions on your behalf. An example of when you might use a General PoA would be if you are out of the country for an extended period and entrust an attorney to manage your affairs while you are away.

Continuing - A General PoA is sometimes known as a Continuing Power of Attorney or CPoA. A CPoA allows you to designate an individual to make the predetermined decisions for you in the event that you are unable to make them for yourself.  For example, in a CPoA for property, your attorney will make decisions regarding property for you.

Non-continuing - A non-continuing PoA may include a specific task but cannot be used if you become mentally unable to make them on your own.

Enduring - An Enduring PoA covers decisions regarding legal and financial matters that must be made on your behalf, until the time of your death. A General Enduring PoA grants an individual the power to make a broad scope of decisions if you become unable to make them, until your death.   

Medical - A Medical PoA may also be referred to as PoA for Personal Care. This document grants a trusted individual to make health care or medical decisions for you in the event that you are unable to make them. If you grant medical power of attorney and financial power of attorney to two different individuals, it’s important that they are aware of each other, as they may need to work together. An example would be if your medical PoA decides to enter you into nursing home care, your financial PoA would need to provide financial information and assist with legal documents regarding this care.  

A Personal Directive (also referred to as Living Will, Health Care Directive, or Advance Directive) is a document in which you provide instruction regarding treatment options and resolve difficult issues in advance with your family and/or friends while you are capable of making them.

Sometimes the phrase ‘proxy directive’ is used to describe a document that combines PoA and the Personal Directive.

It’s important to note that a Personal Directive is not the same thing as a PoA. In the PoA you name an individual but it is not required to name one in a Personal Directive. You should include your wishes from your Personal Directive, in your PoA so that your attorney is aware of them.     

Talk with your lawyer to be sure that you understand and cover the broad scope of powers that may be entrusted. Take time to decide on an accountable and trustworthy representative to speak and act for you; and remember, most powers of attorney will only become effective if and when it is not possible for you to communicate your wishes for yourself.


Written by Alice Lucette
Image by SalFalko of Flickr

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