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Personal and healthcare directives in wills in Canada

When people are no longer able to make decisions for themselves, yet still want some control over what happens in their lives, having a health care or personal directive drawn up may be the answer. Wills in Canada can incorporate such directives, which will appoint someone to make healthcare decisions on their behalf should they not have the mental capacity to do do. Generally speaking, a power of attorney is the same thing. 

A healthcare directive does not necessarily appoint a substitute decision-maker to make healthcare decisions for a person, nor does it appoint a personal directive to make financial ones. In a healthcare directive, a person indicates the healthcare treatments that can and can't be used on them if they can't make those decisions for themselves, rather than having someone else make those decisions on their behalf. The person can name someone to act as as a proxy to make those decisions, in which case the document is akin to a personal directive or power of attorney.

There are some things that may be outlined in a healthcare directive that will not be followed, depending upon the province. One such thing may be euthanasia. However, it is important that a healthcare directive stipulate what treatments an individual does not want, such as being kept alive on life support or being tube fed, etc. Those making a healthcare directive should let their loved ones and doctors know of its existence, so that the wishes contained in it will be followed.

There are many overlapping terms when it comes to directives that go hand in hand with wills and estate planning. These terms might be confusing to the average person and could be explained by a lawyer who is experienced in wills and estate law in Canada. Knowing what can and can't be included in a will can make estate planning go much smoother.

Source:, "What are personal/healthcare directives?", Miriam Yosowich, Accessed on Nov. 19, 2017

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