What is a Power of Attorney?

Updated: Sep 3, 2019


A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the power to act and make decisions on your behalf.

Like wills, powers of attorney are indispensable tools when it comes to life planning. Everyone should have a power of attorney, because we never know what may happen tomorrow.

Remember, however, that you are not required to have power of attorney, whether for property or personal care. Having a power of attorney or not is your choice to make. If you do want to have a power of attorney, please make sure you are doing so out of your own free will, without being pressured by someone else.

There are 3 main general types of Powers of Attorney:

  1. Power of Attorney for Personal Care

  2. Continuing Power of Attorney for Property

  3. Non-Continuing Power of Attorney for Property

A Power of Attorney for Personal Care lets the attorney, the person(s) you appoint make personal care decisions on your behalf once you become mentally incapable of making them yourself. Your attorney(s) will make decisions on your behalf about personal care and medical decisions, such as whether you will receive or decline certain types of medical treatments (depending on your views, preferences, etc.).

A Continuing Power of Attorney for Property lets your attorney(s) manage your financial affairs when you become mentally incapable. Your attorney(s) will follow your wishes regarding bill and rent payments, bank accounts, and making purchases on your behalf.

A Non-Continuing Power of Attorney for Property allows your attorney(s) to handle your financial affairs only for a certain amount of time, eg. if you are away from Ontario for a long period of time. This type of document cannot be used when and if you become mentally incapable.

To make a valid Power of Attorney, you must be:

  • 16 years of age or more (for attorney for personal care) and 18 years of age or more (for attorney for property)

  • and "mentally capable" - this means you cannot be mentally incapacitated, which is defined by the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992, as being unable to understand information relevant to making a decision or being unable to appreciate the reasonable foreseeable consequences of a decision or lack of thereof.

Note that any power of attorney you make automatically cancels any other power of attorney you have made before.

For your Power of Attorney to be legally valid, it must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign the document.

It is also a good idea to have your Power of Attorney notarized as an authentic document, so it is less likely that the validity of your Power of Attorney will be questioned.

Note that a guardian of property is different from an attorney for property or personal care. A guardian is appointed after the person has become incapable, while an attorney is appointed by an individual before that individual becomes incapable.

Disclaimer: This blog post is for general information purposes only and is NOT intended to be relied upon for legal advice, or to be construed as legal advice. Please consult with us directly through email (wlo@wdl-law.com) for legal advice about your specific situation.

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