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The need for powers of attorney as part of estate planning

Life in Ontario is unpredictable, and adverse circumstances or advancement in age can affect any person's mental competence. If such an individual did not anticipate this and failed to address it by appropriate estate planning measures, a court will appoint such a guardian -- if the individual is no longer mentally able choose a substitute decision maker. The court's appointment may not be the person that the individual would have chosen.

To avoid such a situation, powers of attorney can be appointed as part of a person's estate planning. Powers of attorney must be appointed when the individual granting the power still has the mental capacity to draft such documents. The purpose of giving another person the power of attorney is to have a trusted individual to handle specified affairs when the maker of the documents is no longer capable of doing so.

Separate powers of attorney can be appointed for the areas of finances and health care. This will charge the financial power of attorney with the management of business, property and other economic affairs while the person appointed as medical power of attorney will take care of the personal needs of the individual. The scope of the designated powers is broad and can be specified by the drafter of the plans.

These can be tough choices to make, and the support and guidance of an experienced estate planning lawyer in Ontario is a significant asset. The attorney can explain the rights and duties of the two types of power of attorney, and assist in choosing a person who will act in the individual's best interests when he or she is no longer capable. The lawyer can also provide counsel for the appointed attorneys and explain the powers they have been given.

Source: FindLaw Canada, "Losing capacity, substitute decision making, and the right to make decisions", Miriam Yosowich, Accessed on June 10, 2017

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