Need Power of Attorney?

One of the guiding principles of my personal and professional life is "hope for the best but plan for the worst". That way you are open to all of the exciting possibilities that life presents, but are prepared when things don't go as you had planned.

With all the wonderful medical advances, we baby boomers, our parents and extended families are living longer, but at the same time, diseases such as Alzheimer's and other degenerative diseases are affecting people at a younger and younger age. Thus, one of the most important and valuable things that we can do for ourselves and our families is to ensure that each and every adult in our family has an up to date Power of Attorney for Property and a Power of Attorney for Personal Care/Living Will that reflects their current wishes.

Many people have a Will prepared, but do not think to have a power of attorney drawn up. Unfortunately, they do not realize that their will deals with distribution of their property when they are dead, but a power of attorney for property deals with property matters when they are alive but unable to make decisions for themselves, and a power of attorney for personal care becomes effective when they are unable to make personal care and treatment decisions for themselves.

Some people think that they don't need to have a power of attorney for property as they own everything jointly. However, as a client of mine recently discovered when her husband had a stroke and their mortgage came up for refinancing, even though they owned the home jointly, she had to have a power of attorney for her husband in order to complete the transaction. Luckily the husband recovered sufficiently to sign the document. If he had not so, she would have been faced with making an expensive Court Application to be appointed as the guardian of his property.

Have you considered what your family would do if you were in a car accident and in a coma and they could not access your bank accounts or manage your business affairs? Further, what would happen to your finances if you became mentally incompetent and were unable to make financial decisions for yourself or treatment or care decisions? If you did not have a power of attorney for personal care and/or property the effect of such events could be devastating to your family and business.

A properly drafted power of attorney for property and one for personal care allows you to appoint someone you trust to act on your behalf if you are not competent to make decisions thereby helping to reduce stress during an already stressful time for your family. The cost of a lawyer prepared power of attorney is quite minimal and can save thousands of dollars in legal costs down the road.

This article was submitted by:
Sally Harris, Barrister & Solicitor
2nd Floor - 6335 Main Street
Stouffville, ON
L4A 1G5
Phone: 905 640 7521
905 640 7521
Fax: 905 640 7531
email: sallyharris@sympatico.ca

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