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If you were to have a stroke, heart attack, or serious operation—a disability to the degree you could not take care of your own affairs, who would take over? What if this was the last day that could make a mindful decision, on your own behalf?
You transfer directorial powers over your affairs to a Power of Attorney
In such a situation, a Power of Attorney (POA) allows people you trust to manage prescribed affairs of your life.
Without a POA, your family though ready to pay your bills, and help manage your bank account and your investments, for example, may need special court approval to act for you. They could be forced to face a bureaucratic nightmare just to acquire authority to pay your bills (from your provincial public trustee).
• Clarity can be defined A POA leaves no room for misunderstanding the range of authority over your assets. You may need to set restrictive clauses in a POA that addresses your unique concerns.
• You will give up the powers of your signature The POA relinquishes the power of your signature and all the authority associated with it. Unless it states otherwise, a POA may be used by the attorney immediately upon signing.
• It must be witnessed Improper witnessing annuls the legal completion and sets the POA up for contention. Thus make sure the document is witnessed properly.
• Be careful of restrictions you may not want included Some broad form POAs include optional clauses that are often left included, whereas they may not be applicable. These may include restrictions on the attorney that you may not want to impose.
• You may want to restrict beneficiary changes If you want the attorney to have power over changes of beneficiaries to life insurance or investment assets, make that clear. If not, clearly restrict the right to change beneficiaries.
A warning which may or may not apply to you
Unfortunately, an attorney once authorized with your directive powers could feel it is their privilege to become an “empowered benefactor” of your (you, the donor’s) estate once they lose capacity. Therefore, it is wise to have a lawyer articulately document your specific wishes in your Power of Attorney documentation.
To empower and entrust another with your own authority, may be the last time you have the healthy capacity to make a responsible decision on your own behalf; so make it carefully.
Where there is significant wealth involved, consider a POA designed specifically to give powers to assist in the governing of your financial affairs.
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