According to the Attorney General, a Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the right to act on your behalf.
Last week I was interviewed for possibly being designated as a Power of Attorney for Property and Power of Attorney for Personal Care for an individual. While the interviewer, let’s call her Cindy, was asking intelligent questions and accessing my knowledge, skill set and personality, I was also forming the questions I needed to ask her. It is no longer merely ‘an honour’ or an easy task to take on the massive responsibilities now associated with these positions.
Cindy is single, self-employed, her parents have passed and she is in her early 50’s with some medical issues. About 5 years ago she took on the responsibility of caring for her uncle, who is in his mid 60’s with a brain injury. Luckily, he’s very healthy and acts much younger than his age. However, even though Cindy has a number of siblings, none of them want to take the uncle even for a weekend to give her a break, let alone a long term commitment. So while she’s asking me about what I would do and the costs involved if anything happened to her, I realize she needs significantly more information before she assigns these positions to anyone.
She is not alone in not knowing what a Power of Attorney can, should and want to do. Here are a few of the responsibilities that a Power of Attorney for Property may be responsible for according to the Ministry of the Attorney General:
- Apply for benefits or supplementary income to which the person is entitled
- Collect debts
- Pay bills
- Buy goods and services
- Start of defend lawsuits, if there are financial implications
- Maintain or sell a house or vehicle
For the Power of Attorney for Personal Care some of the decisions are determining;
- Medical treatment
Basically a Power of Attorney may need to make important decisions about your health and quality of life.
Some of my questions to Cindy were;
- If your uncle could no longer live in your home, who’s going to care for him?
- Where would he go, short term and/or long term?
- Do you understand the costs involved in a senior’s residence or institutional care? And, would he even be allowed to live in a senior’s residence?
- Are there any responsibilities to manage where your business is concerned?
- Do you have a list of where your important documents are stored, and does someone know where that list is?
When you think of appointing a Power of Attorney, think of all that is required for that job. Who is most capable of handling the responsibilities? If it’s just not you affected by a change in health, how will dependents be cared for? And I’m not just thinking of dependents who live with you. What about family members that are dependent on you for groceries, medical appointments, etc.?
No one likes thinking about losing the ability to care for themselves, but if we don’t think about this now, who will when we don’t have an option? Choose carefully!
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Until next time,