At any age, having a legal contract designating someone to act on your behalf in financial and legal matters is an important decision. Usually in married couples, one spouse will act as power of attorney for the other in case of a physical or mental incapacity. But in the case of older couples who may be impaired themselves, or with single seniors, the job may be placed in the hands of a trusted relative or close friend.
In some instances, a senior may have an adult child or other loved-one share a joint bank account in order to pay bills in case of an emergency. As a safeguard, some people will appoint two or more attorneys to make decisions together or in case one is unavailable. Regardless, it is important to keep documentation up-to-date with your wishes in case of an unforeseen health change.
A separate document is usually drafted in relation to personal care, sometimes called an advanced directive or living will. The agent for personal care will make decisions honoring the wishes of a patient who can no longer make health decisions for themselves.
Putting your wishes into writing before a crisis will make decision-making during an already difficult time, a bit easier. Many people put off designating a power of attorney, it can just be a reminder of our own mortality and quite often people aren’t sure who to appoint as their legal and financial representative.
Considerations for Choosing Power of Attorney
- Is the person trustworthy?
- Are they reliable?
- Are they good money and property managers in general?
- Will they act in your best interest?
- Does the person have the time to manage your finances?
- Are they in good health?
- Do they live nearby?
- Has this person acted as an attorney before?
- Have they agreed to take on the job?
- Do they understand what is expected of them?
By answering these questions, the decision about who to ask to act as power of attorney should become clear. You may also want to speak with a lawyer, an estate planner or your bank representative regarding financial laws which can differ in each province and territory.
For more information about powers of attorney and joint bank accounts, visit the Government of Canada’s Information for Seniors webpage at http://www.seniors.gc.ca/eng/working/fptf/attorney.shtml .