Powers of Attorney in Ontario
By: Ilene Shiller, MSW, RSW
While a will deals with what happens to your assets after you pass away, Powers of Attorney are about your wishes and decision-making while you are alive. Therefore, they are a key tool for giving you control and peace of mind by ensuring that someone you trust can make decisions about your care and financial affairs if you can no longer do so.
What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney allows a person to legally protect their health and financial interests by allowing them to plan for when they become ill, injured, or incapable of making decisions. It is a legal document that gives someone you trust the power to act on your behalf. The person you appoint is called your “attorney,” but they do not have to be a lawyer. In Ontario, there are two types of Powers of Attorney:
- Power of Attorney for Personal Care
- Power of Attorney for Property
Power of Attorney for Personal Care
A substitute decision-maker makes healthcare decisions on your behalf if you cannot make them yourself. The law provides a hierarchy of who can act as your substitute decision-maker. A Power of Attorney for Personal Care allows you to legally appoint someone as your substitute decision-maker regarding personal care decisions such as healthcare, nutrition, clothing, shelter, hygiene and safety.
You can provide special instructions about the kind of care you want in certain situations in your Power of Attorney or in a separate document (an Advance Care Plan or Directive) so that your attorney knows your wishes.
Power of Attorney for Property
A Power of Attorney for Property gives the person you select the power to make decisions about your property and finances. For example, your Attorney for Property could be responsible for taking care of your banking, managing your investments, running your business, buying and selling real estate on your behalf, or paying your monthly bills. The only thing that you cannot appoint an attorney to do is to write your will.
A general power of attorney allows the person you select to manage your finances and property on your behalf only while you are mentally capable of managing your affairs. It ends if you become mentally incapable. A continuing power of attorney lets your attorney continue acting for you if you become mentally incapable of managing your finances and property.
Preparing Powers of Attorney
A lawyer can prepare your Powers of Attorney and often does so when they prepare your will. There are also “do-it-yourself” resources available:
Ministry of the Attorney General (Ontario):
Steps to Justice Guided Pathway:
This information is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to provide legal advice. For advice specific to your situation, you should consult a lawyer.