Garton & Harris

What older residents should know about power of attorney

It's inevitable. Everyone -- if he or she is lucky -- gets old. And when thinking about the future, many British Columbia residents think about estate planning and that includes a power of attorney. Planning ahead for old age is one of the most important things a person can do and that means choosing someone to make crucial decisions when one can no longer do so oneself.

Seniors are some of the most vulnerable segments of society. Choosing an individual to help manage their affairs is not only important, but necessary. A person should never feel pressured by the one to whom they've granted the authority to look after his or her financial and personal needs. An individual needs to be capable mentally when signing a power of attorney for the document to be legal and valid.

A person to whom a power of attorney is granted can do nearly everything the person granting that authority can do when it comes to finances and property. He or she can sign cheques, pay bills, do banking, sell real estate and buy goods. He or she can't make changes to an existing will or life insurance policy or give the power of attorney to anyone else. As long as the testator can make decisions on his or her own behalf, he or she can do so without the help of the person who would be acting on a power of attorney.

power of attorney -- as with other estate planning documents -- can be complex and confusing. A British Columbia lawyer can bring clarity to those areas which may seem a little cloudy. Older folks may need an explanation that a power of attorney is not taking the control from them over their finances, but is a safeguard should they need help making decisions in the future.

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