The Ontario Wills and Estates Law Blog

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Understanding Powers of Attorney

As I mentioned in my last blog, if you have noticed some signs that Mom might need help with her affairs, your first step is to determine whether she has signed Powers of Attorney documents.

A signed Power of Attorney (POA) can give another person (attorney) authority to make decisions and take care of things for the person who signed (grantor) the POA. Everyone over the age of 18 should have both a POA for property or financial matters and another for personal care.

In a POA for property, you can name one or more people or a trust company to act as the attorney or substitute decision-maker.  With the document in hand, the attorney can deal with your assets and financial affairs just as you would yourself including paying bills, selling real property, and investing.

Depending upon how the POA for property is worded, it may be used:

  • when you are unable to manage your financial affairs due to mental incapacity; or,
  • when you are mentally fine but physically unable to deal with your assets perhaps due to a hospital stay or travel.

In a POA for personal care, on the other hand, the people you have named as your personal care decision-maker can make medical treatment and personal care decisions for you only if you are mentally incapable of making those decisions yourself. There are different tests for mental capacity depending upon the decisions that must be made. For example, for any medical treatment decision, you must be incapable of making the decision before your attorney will be able to make the decision for you.

In Ontario, a ‘living will’ gives specific instructions about the medical treatment that you want or do not want.  For example, you can specify whether you want CPR measures or not and under what conditions. A living will may be included in your POA PC or it may be a separate document.

In the next several blogs, I will offer some tips for those already acting or who may soon have to act as a Power of Attorney.  If you would like to learn more about what you are allowed to do or not do when acting under a power of attorney document, you may be interested in a full-day workshop that I will be offering in 2013.  If so, send an email to and we will add you to our mailing list for announcements about this informative, practical workshop.

Reproduction of this blog is permitted if the author is credited.  If you have questions or if you would like more information, please call us at 613 836-9915. This blog is not intended to be legal advice but contains general information.  Please consult a lawyer or other professional to determine how the information in this blog might apply to you.

Blog posts pre-dated December 1, 2015 were originally published under Neff Law Office Professional Corporation.

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