What You Should Know About Wills and Powers of Attorney
In a world of volatility and uncertainty, planning ahead on personal or business matters is the smart way to protect your legal voice in the event of severe illness, disability, incapacitation, or death. With professional guidance and proper documentation, you can ensure that:
- Your property, finances, and other assets fall into the hands of a capable decision maker or caretaker who executes everything as per your wishes.
- You designate a trusted person to make decisions on financial or medical matters on your behalf.
The experienced team of Ottawa wills and estate lawyers at Simard & Associates answers the most common Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) related to wills and powers of attorney.
Understanding the Key Aspects of Wills and Powers of Attorney
What is a Power of Attorney (POA)?
A legal document through which you authorize one or more trusted persons, namely an Attorney or Attorneys, to make financial or health-related decisions for you, while you are still alive and either temporarily or permanently unable to manage your own affairs.
What are the roles and responsibilities of a Power of Attorney?
An Attorney for property may be responsible for all your property matters and financial affairs (i.e. paying bills, applying for benefits, selling assets, collecting debts) or “specific tasks” (e.g. taking care of selling your house while you are overseas). An Attorney for personal care can make decisions related to your healthcare, shelter, nutrition, hygiene, clothing, and safety. They can also communicate to doctors or medical professionals your wishes on medical matters, such as pain relief or life support.
What kinds of Power of Attorney do I need to give? How many types of Powers of Attorney are there?
In Ontario, there are two types of POAs:
- Power of Attorney (POA) for Property
- A non-continuing POA for property authorizes the person to manage specific tasks or situations for a defined duration.
- A continuing POA for property gives fairly broad powers for a variety of financial matters if you become physically or mentally incompetent.
- POA for personal care lets someone make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
Who should I name as my Power of Attorney?
Anyone you trust, including a spouse, sibling, close friend, family member. You can also name more than one person. Consider these characteristics while naming one or more Attorneys:
- Minimum legal age as specified by your province (in Ontario it is 18 years of age or older)
- Willing to take on the responsibilities of a POA and everything it entails
- Mentally competent to act on your behalf
- Has the ability to manage money or property matters or your healthcare related decisions
Why are Powers of Attorney important?
A signed POA allows someone you trust to take care of your money or personal care matters in the event of incapacitation, emergencies, or unforeseen circumstances that prevent you from making your own decisions.
The absence of a Power of Attorney (POA) can:
- Complicate matters related to your property, assets, health, or other critical life decisions
- Cause mismanagement of finances or litigious circumstances
- Lead to personal care decisions that do not necessarily reflect your wishes
What is the difference between an Executor and an Attorney?
The difference is life and death. An Attorney acts on your behalf while you are still alive but unable to manage your affairs in the events of physical or mental incapacitation. An executor or estate trustee (person appointed in your will) acts on behalf of your estate after you pass.
Who should I name as Executor/Trustee in my will?
Many people choose a family member or a close friend as the executor or trustee for their will. This person is responsible for protecting and administering the matters of your estate and distributing your assets to your beneficiaries.
How many times can I change my will?
You can change or update your will at any time and as many times as you wish to, as long as you are of sound mind at the time of making the change. It is advisable to review your will periodically, especially when:
- You go through major life changes (marriage, divorce, childbirth, etc.).
- There are significant changes to your financial situation.
- The person you named trustee/ executor passes or is incapacitated.
- You wish to add or remove beneficiaries.
What is the difference between a Will and a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is a legal document through which you entrust one or more person(s) to manage your financial or personal care matters while you are still alive, but in the event that you are physically or mentally incapacitated. A will is a legal document that expresses your wishes after you pass and has no legal effect before you die.
At Simard and Associates, we understand that it can be difficult and stressful to make decisions related to your personal or business matters, especially when you are planning for scenarios, such as physical or mental incapacitation or death. Our team of compassionate and qualified Wills and Estate lawyers in Prescott-Russell can help you focus on all the essential elements to ensure that the POA will address your best interests and comply with the legal requirements in Ontario. We have over two decades of experience in serving clients in and around Clarence-Rockland and Ottawa on a variety of legal matters.
Get in touch with us to discuss your specific situation and requirements for wills or powers of attorney. Our knowledgeable professionals look forward to guiding you on your legal options and strategies.