by Sean Cooper.
If you read last week’s article on “what is a power of attorney and why do I need one?,” you should already be familiar with the importance of appointing a power of attorney. In Ontario without a signed power of attorney, if no one suitable can be found the Public Guardian and Trustee may look after your health and finances.
So, you know you need a power of attorney, but who do you choose to look after your health and finances when you’re unable to yourself? Choosing a power of attorney seem daunting like choosing an executor, but it doesn’t have to be.
Here are some factors to consider when choosing a power of attorney for personal care and property. Many considerations are the same as choosing an executor (you want someone who will be available and is likely to be alive), but there are some different considerations to make.
Choose someone who is ok with the responsibilities
Don’t just appoint someone as your power of attorney without asking them first. Speak with the trusted individual you’re thinking of choosing as your power of attorney ahead of time. Make sure they’re ok with the responsibilities of being named your power of attorney.
Your power of attorney for personal care will be required to make important decisions around your health and wellbeing. Meanwhile, your power of attorney for property will need to make important decisions surrounding your financial affairs and will be responsible for keeping detailed records of all transactions involving your money and assets. Make sure they’re aware of the types of decisions they may need to make, so that they feel confident they’ll be up to the task if called on.
And make sure your attorney understands your wishes. Although it’s your attorney’s responsibility to follow what’s written in the power of attorney document, it’s a good idea to explain anything more complicated, such as what life support measures you would and wouldn’t accept. That way there aren’t any surprises if your power of attorney needs to step in and act on your behalf.
Choose someone you trust
Similar to your executor, you’ll want to choose someone who is trustworthy, such as a family member, relative or close friend. Your power of attorney may or may not be the same person as your executor. Again, don’t choose someone just because of family politics.
Your power of attorney for personal care can make medical and long-term care decisions if a medical professional or evaluator finds that you’re mentally incapable of making specific decisions. Your power of attorney for personal care can also step in if they believe you’re incapable without an assessment. That’s why it’s so important to choose a trustworthy individual who has your best interest at heart.
You can appoint a separate power of attorney for personal care and one for property or the same person in both cases, it’s completely up to you. If your financial affairs are on the complicated side or you don’t know anyone, you can name a trust company to be your power of attorney.
Choose someone who is legally able to be your power of attorney
There are age restrictions on who can be appointed as your attorney. The restrictions are different for the power of attorney for personal care and property. For the power of attorney for personal care, your attorney must be at least 16 years old. For the power of attorney for property, they must be slightly older – at least 18 years old.
In both cases, your power of attorney must be mentally capable (and for good reason, since they’re making important decisions about your health and finances). Also, certain individuals cannot be your power of attorney. Those include your landlord, personal caregiver, social worker, counsellor, teacher, doctor, nurse and homemaker. Here’s a full list of individuals who you can’t choose as your power of attorney.