Whether as a consequence of growing older, the result of an accident, or an extended period of travel, you may no longer be able to manage your own financial affairs and may need someone to act on your behalf.
To prepare for such a situation, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place and to identify a trustworthy and competent person or persons you can count on to manage your affairs if you’re no longer able to.
Powers of Attorney (PoA)
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that you sign to give one person, or more than one person, the authority to manage your money and/or property for you. The person you appoint is usually called an “attorney.” That person does not need to be a lawyer.
There are several types of Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney for property gives a person or persons of your choice (the attorney or the attorneys) the power to act on your behalf (the donor) for financial decisions. Note that an attorney for a Power of Attorney does not necessarily mean a lawyer—it is a person that you trust to act on your behalf.
A Power of Attorney for property can be a very powerful document that can give the attorney complete access to your finances. The decision to assign somebody PoA over your financial affairs should not be taken lightly. It should be a person that you trust to act in your best interest. Keep in mind that so long as you are capable, you can continue to make decisions and transactions yourself even if you’ve appointed an attorney.
The rules for PoAs are set provincially. For
more specific information on PoAs in your province or territory, see the links
Tips to remember:
- Before signing any legal document such as a PoA, consult a lawyer to help you understand all of the implications, including the risks and benefits. For help finding an attorney in your province or territory, visit your provincial or territorial law society website.
- If your finances are complicated or you are unsure your friends or family can manage them, consider appointing a trusted professional as your decision-maker (e.g., trust company or lawyer, although there will be fees to consider).
- Assigning more than one person as your Power of Attorney can sometimes be a good idea as it could mean that no single person could make transactions or withdraw money from your accounts. Before doing so, be sure to consider the benefits and challenges of assigning more than one person. Disagreements between attorneys could cause problems and lead to delays in the management of your financial affairs.
- Once you have chosen a Power of Attorney, it is very important that you communicate with that person about their obligations and about your wishes to ensure that they are aware of your choices and preferences before they need to act on your behalf.
- Remind the attorney that they must always act in your best interest, not their own. If you want your attorney to be able to make gifts on your behalf (including to the attorney), this should be clearly set out in the Power of Attorney document itself.
- Wherever possible, ensure that your whole family is aware of your wishes in advance to limit disputes later.
- Check with your financial institution to learn about its policies for dealing with PoAs and of any special requirements that might apply.
- Continue to receive and review your bank/investment account statements as long as you are able to do so, and take action if the transactions done by your attorney (Power of Attorney) are not what you wanted.
- Discuss with the person you choose to give Power of Attorney to whether they will keep your accounts with the same financial institution. If not, find out what the implications are.
For more information see: