What is a 'Power of Attorney'
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone you trust the authority to manage your personal affairs if you no longer have capacity to do so, or need assistance. At Jolanta Bula Legal Professional Corporation we prepare two types of Powers of Attorney: Personal Care, and Property. The person giving the authority is called the "Donor" or "Grantor" and the person named as the attorney is the "Donee" or "Grantee". The person you appoint does not have to be a lawyer to be your attorney.
It is important to note that your Power of Attorney documents are only valid as long as you are alive, which is why it is very important that you also have a 'Last Will and Testament' in place that will then come into effect when you pass. Most of our clients choose to have all documents prepared at the same time. Commonly, spouse's will name each other as their attorney, and also name at least one alternate attorney.
Your appointed attorney can only act on your behalf if a) you give that person an original, signed Power of Attorney document, or b) you have failed a capacity assessment by your family physician or a capacity assessor. As your lawyer is only the custodian of your documents, he or she cannot release them unless they have either been authorized by you, the Donor, or has been provided with a failed capacity assessment report.
What is a capacity assessment?
A capacity assessment is a way to evaluate if an adult person is capable of making financial or personal decisions for themselves. Someone with dementia or Alzheimer's is an example of someone who may not have capacity to handle these types of responsibilities.
Let's break this down.
Personal Care: This type of POA allows your appointed attorney to make decisions pertaining to your health and wellness. This could be something as simple as speaking to a doctor on your behalf, or something extreme like making end of life decisions. Personal Care is a very broad umbrella term and it is important to outline your specific concerns and expectations to your attorney to guarantee your wishes.
Property: This type of POA allows your appointed attorney to make decisions pertaining to your financial matters, such as your home, investments, bank accounts, etc. This person will have full access to your finances and can do anything that you can legally do, except write a new will, and that is why this person must be someone you absolutely trust.
Once you have outlined your wishes and designated a person to be responsible for your Personal Care and Property, you will come into our office to sign. We recommend that you do not give your documentation to your attorney until you are ready to have them step in and act on your behalf. Documents should be stored in a safe place, but not a safety deposit box.
A Power of Attorney document is valid only as long as you are living, and will only come into effect if you decide to give an original, signed copy to your named attorney, or, it is determined that you no longer have the capacity to make decisions for yourself.