As people age, giving up power over important life decisions can be a struggle.
Often this transition is tied to denial that a person is experiencing confusion, or noticing a diminished ability to handle their own affairs. Ideally, before this happens, when a loved one is reaching later senior years, it is wise to begin having conversations with them about who they feel they can trust to handle their affairs should they become unable. Without pressing or persuading a loved one to act outside of their comfort zone, discussing the need to appoint a Power of Attorney is highly recommended.
‘I hated the thought of other people having control over my finances – I’ve always been very capable of handling things on my own.” -Irene Classes (Age 80)
What is Powers of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives one person, or more than one person (referred to as your Attorney), authority to manage your finances and your property on your behalf. The person acting as the Attorney does not become the owner of any of your money or assets, they only have the authority to manage your affairs on your behalf at such a time as they are invited to by you (with a written declaration), or if you become mentally incapable (as determined by two medical experts). It is most important to note that even with a Power of Attorney in place, while a person is mentally capable, they can continue to make their own decisions about their financial affairs.
Are there different kinds of Power of Attorney?
In Canada there are two kinds of Powers of Attorney used for property and finances: General Power of Attorney and Enduring or Continuing Power of Attorney. The main difference is that General can be limited to a specific amount of time and only allows your chosen person to manage your affairs while you are mentally capable. At such a time that you are deemed mentally capable, the power is revoked. Enduring continues to be in effect even if you become mentally incapable.
Either document can become effective immediately after they are signed, or with Enduring Power of Attorney it can be enacted with a written declaration from you, or when medical experts deem you incapacitated.
What does your Attorney have power to do?
If you haven’t put limitations into the document the person you appoint can handle most aspects of your finances and property. They can pay your bills, do your banking, sign checks, and even buy and sell real estate on your behalf.
What about power over health and personal care?
This is not covered under your financial Power of Attorney. In Canada, non-financial matters are handled by a separate and equally important document typically referred to as a Personal or Health Directive.
What happens if you haven’t appointed a Power of Attorney?
In the event that you become incapable of making your own decisions, if you have not chosen an Attorney, the Court can appoint someone to look after your finances and property on your behalf. This is a lengthy and costly process that begins with an application and in some instances, the person appointed is not someone you may have chosen.
Who should you choose for your Attorney?
It is important to ask someone you implicitly trust and hopefully know well. When choosing to assign Power of Attorney, you must be mentally capable so you are fully able to make this important decision.
“I feel so good having my Power of Attorney in place. Now I know that whatever lies ahead, my business will be taken care of and no one will be left suffering because of things I left undone.” -Areta Plume (Age 82)
For more information on Power of Attorney in Canada visit:
For more on the process and risks associated with assigning Power of Attorney visit: