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The advantages of a power of attorney

Canadians of all ages are encouraged to have a power of attorney document on file. In fact, this is one of the most basic estate planning documents that -- in many ways -- is even more important than a will. That's because, if you pass away without a will, the law will still provide a way for your estate to be distributed to your heirs in some way or another, but if you don't have a power of attorney, you could be in serious trouble before you die -- in the event that you become incapacitated.

Let's take a look at some of the advantages of a power of attorney:

-- Allows you to clearly indicate who will handle your property and money matters if you can't manage them yourself, even if it's only temporary.

-- Your attorney is bound by law to make decisions that benefit you, and only you.

-- Your power of attorney document can provide only very specific powers to your attorney or it can broadly give general powers to your attorney.

-- You can appoint more than one attorney, and require them to make joint decisions in order to limit the chances of fraud.

-- You can appoint secondary attorneys who will take power in the event that the other is unable.

-- A general power of attorney can let someone take over your affairs if you are gone for a certain period of time.

-- An enduring power of attorney gives someone power of your affairs in the event of mental incapacitation.

Without a power of attorney in place, the relatives of an incapacitated person may need to take time-consuming legal action in order to assume control over the person's affairs. Also, the incapacitated person will not have the ability to select who the attorney will be. Clearly, it is therefore best to handle this as soon as possible to prevent delays and difficulty at the time your power of attorney is needed most.

Source: seniors.gc.ca, "What every older Canadian should know about: Powers of attorney (for financial matters and property) and joint bank accounts," accessed Sep. 20, 2016

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