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Power of attorney laws in British Columbia

The laws regarding power of attorney changed in British Columbia on Sept. 1, 2011. While any power of attorney documents prior to this date are still valid in most cases, it is advisable to have a lawyer review the documents to ensure that they do not need to be updated. Any powers of attorney signed after Sept. 1, 2011, need to adhere to the current laws.

A power of attorney can be specific and cover certain situations, such as who can cash a pension cheque, or it might be general and confer broad powers on a person designated to handle all of the person's assets. However, when it comes to real estate, the Land Title Act lays out specific procedures that individuals must follow. If the power of attorney is not enduring, then it will only remain in effect for three years. The Land Title Act, available at a library or on online, addresses this matter further. Because real estate transactions generally involve large sums of money, a lawyer should be involved.

It is important for people to carefully select the person to whom they designate the power of attorney by weighing carefully that person's integrity and capabilities. Misuse of this serious responsibility could have potentially devastating effects. In some cases, more than one individual could be appointed as power of attorney. However, one of them could decide to refuse the position when the time comes to act. A contingency plan can help avoid complications.

Choosing the appropriate person as power of attorney can be a challenging decision. A  lawyer who understands wills and estate planning might be able to help clients designate one or more individuals with power-of-attorney rights and develop a plan for real estate in accordance with the province's Land Title Act.

Source: The Canadian Bar Association BC Branch, "Power of Attorney and Representation Agreements", June 11, 2014

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