A power of attorney is by far the most underrated instrument in the legal world.
There are few documents a lawyer can draw up less expensively, and even fewer that end up being more critical in a client’s life.
The only problem I find with POAs is that people don’t realize how much they need one until it’s too late.
POAs are designed to kick in when a person becomes incapable of handling their own affairs, which means you need to have them in place ahead of time. Once a person reaches the point of incapacity, they can no longer sign a valid POA, which can leave family members in a very difficult position.
I recently got a call from a new client who learned the hard way how important it is to have all your POA ducks in a row before the worst happens.
Her spouse entered hospital for what they thought was routine treatment, but collapsed and fell seriously ill on his way out, and now seems unlikely to ever be able to leave.
In the meantime, without a POA in place, the woman has been cut off from bank accounts that were in her spouse’s name only, and unable to access funds from a large windfall he secured from a former employer.
The family had been counting on the money for their future plans, but the man’s surviving relatives could still face a long and difficult wait to get hold of it, since he did not have a will in place at the time he fell ill and is likely to die intestate.
As much as we might wish for a crystal ball to reveal when a terrible event might or might not occur, none of us can predict the future.
But I can guarantee that your closest family members will thank you for having a POA in place that allows them to take control of your affairs and get on with their own lives in the smoothest way possible should disaster ever strike.
There are two kinds of powers of attorney under Ontario’s Substitute Decisions Act, which separates the functions between attorneys for property – who take responsibility for the grantor’s finances, bank accounts and other personal property – and attorneys for personal care, who handle decisions about health care, including nutrition, shelter, clothing, hygiene, and safety.
The same person doesn’t have to perform both roles, but each document carries extraordinary power, so make sure you choose people you have absolute faith in.
An experienced lawyer can help grantors set the specific terms that work best for them, including exactly when the POA takes effect and even guidelines for appointees to follow in certain predictable circumstances.
Disclaimer: The content on this website is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice or an opinion of any kind. Users of this website are advised to seek specific legal advice by contacting members of Laredo Law (or their own legal counsel) regarding any specific legal issues.
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Jacob Manishevitz is a mortgage agent with iBridge Capital. His brokerage donates to several charities that range from providing drinkable water to people in need in developing countries; and supporting important organizations by way of activity-based fundraising. If you are looking for worthwhile causes and want to jump on board, please reach out to Jacob.
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