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Granting power of attorney as part of estate planning

As cliché as it may sound, it is important for a person to have his or her affairs in order. Estate planning is best done as early as possible, and updated periodically, in order to have everything squared away before it is too late. A key, but too often overlooked, aspect of estate planning is granting power of attorney, so here are a few words about this vital subject.

There are three kinds of power of attorney a person can bestow in Ontario. One is for personal care, and the other two are for property. By giving someone personal power of attorney, that person becomes a substitute decision maker who will act on the grantor's behalf should he or she no longer be able to make decisions for him or herself. The attorney can act on matters of health, hygiene, safety, housing, clothing, and medical issues. Power over financial matters is not given to the attorney, but it can be granted to someone along with the power of attorney for property.

Personal power of attorney goes into effect once a person has been deemed incapable of making decisions. This can either be decided by the attorney or by another party. Who ultimately makes this decision can be predetermined by the grantor, and it could be a trusted friend or relative or a medical professional. It may be that a person is still able to make some decisions on his or her own, but not others. In such cases, the attorney can make those decisions on the grantor's behalf, but not the rest.

Establishing powers of attorney allows people the freedom to choose someone they trust to follow their wishes and watch out for their best interests when they cannot. This is a decision that should probably be made sooner rather than later to avoid an unfortunate situation later in life. An Ontario lawyer with a focus on estate law can help create this very important part of one's estate planning.

Source: advocacycentreelderly.org, "Powers of Attorney - Frequently Asked Questions", Feb. 17, 2017

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