A Power of Attorney (“POA”) is a legal document in which you authorize another person to act for you with respect to your person and/or property. Many people put off having a POA because they are young and able, thinking that they will have time to get a POA later on. Unfortunately, you cannot always anticipate when or how disability will affect you and your loved ones.
My father finished law school when I graduated from high school and due to his influence I have had a POA since I was eighteen years old. I am an avid traveller and having a POA gives me peace of mind that I have a trusted person to deal with things if there is an emergency and I am out of the country.
Now that I have been practising law for over a decade I see many more reasons why everyone should have a POA regardless of their current situation in life. Here are some of the reasons why you should consider having a POA:
- Through proper estate planning, you may spare your loved ones the legal difficulties and stress associated with a debilitating illness or accident. A POA can ensure that someone you trust is able to take over management of your affairs and make any urgent or long term decisions about your welfare.
- If you suffer a sudden and severe stroke or head injury, you may no longer have the legal capacity to grant a POA. To grant a POA, a person must be able to understand the full extent of the authority they are giving and grant that authority voluntarily. Without the necessary legal capacity, an application for guardianship must be made to court before a person will be granted the authority to make decisions about your person or property. Such court applications are often stressful, costly, and time consuming.
- You get to choose the person or persons who will make decisions about where you live, what financial support to provide to your spouse or children, and managing all your assets and property. The authority given in a POA is significant and you want to have a POA who you trust completely and who is prepared to take on the responsibility. If you do not choose a POA, you may not have any say in who is granted this authority.
- Putting your mind to who you want to choose as your POA is the perfect segue to discussing what your wishes are in the event you lose capacity. You may want to discuss what happens with your business or how much money to put away for your children’s education or whether you want your POA to sell the family farm. Addressing these issues in advance allows you to ensure your best interests and the best interests of your family are served by your POA.
You should have a POA for the same reasons you purchase home insurance or have a Will. A POA is the type of document everyone hopes they will never need to use, but in the event of something traumatic occurring it is a vital document to have in place. Our office receives calls too frequently from people requiring a POA in circumstances where the person who needs the POA is no longer legally capable of authorizing one. As discussed above, the only alternative in this scenario is a very expensive court application. This hardship can be easily avoided with little expense.