What is Enduring Power of Attorney and why would you need one?
It is important to ensure that—no matter the circumstance—your finances and other assets are being managed the way that you would like. Setting up a will, trusts, power of attorney or using other estate planning tools can help you control what happens to your money and property when you are unable to be there and do it yourself.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is a document you can sign appointing another person to act for you regarding your financial matters including bank accounts and property. This power includes paying bills, making tax returns, claiming benefits, day-to-day banking, borrowing money, and even buying or selling real estate.
In BC, there are two kinds of powers of attorney that deal with finances; General Power of Attorney and Enduring Power of Attorney. General Power of Attorney (click here to read more) can also be split into two types – general or specific. A general power of attorney gives the other person authority to do anything that you yourself would be able to do. A specific power of attorney only gives authority for a particular purpose (e.g., to sell a property) or for a temporary timeframe—like when you are on vacation!
Enduring Power of Attorney
None of us can predict if or when something could happen rendering us mentally or cognitively impaired. Illness or accidents can happen at any time and, unfortunately, could put you in a position where you are no longer able to manage your own financial affairs. This is why it is important to be prepared if the worst case scenario should happen to arise.
An Enduring Power of Attorney allows you to decide who you will trust to make financial and legal decisions for you in case you are no longer mentally capable. As nobody will have the automatic right to step in and help (no, not even your spouse!), it is very important to appoint someone while you are still capable of making such decisions about your future. If you fail to put any plans in place and do become mentally incapable, the court may have to appoint someone to make decisions for you.
There is some flexibility in what Enduring Powers of Attorney can actually do and when an Attorney obtains the authority to act on your behalf. They usually give authority right away, but you can continue to manage your own affairs as long as you are able to. You may also use your power of attorney for assistance with complicated matters or not at all if it never becomes necessary!
So, What’s the Difference?
Both powers of attorney—general and enduring, allow you to place your important financial matters in the hands of someone you trust and choose personally. The main difference between the two is that general powers of attorney become invalid once you become mentally incapable while enduring powers of attorney continue when you become mentally incapable and until your death.
Choosing Your Power of Attorney
You can choose any able person who is over the age of 19 as long as they are not a paid caregiver for you, in a facility or otherwise. Most importantly, make sure that you choose someone that you trust since they will have the authority to make many legal and financial decisions for you. They may be your spouse or relative and you may also name more than one person as your attorney pursuant to an enduring power of attorney.