When I think of Power of Attorney meaning, I always thought this meant having someone that you designate and appoint to make health care decisions on your behalf. This is actually called a “Living Will” or colloquially, a Healthcare Power of Attorney.
This is actually not the case, and in British Columbia, Canada, a Power of Attorney document is meant to help you appoint someone you trust to manage your financial affairs should you be incapable of doing so.
This post will go over what a power of attorney is and the difference between an Enduring Power of Attorney and General Power of Attorney, the costs to have one included as part of your estate planning, and alternatives to the power of attorney should it be too late to get one.
There are slightly different regulations between different provinces but this post will explore the Power of Attorney meaning in British Columbia specifically.
WHAT IS A POWER OF ATTORNEY?
A Power of Attorney is a personal directive and legal document that you sign to give someone that you trust the authority and ability to act on your behalf for financial matters. Contrary to popular belief, a Power of Attorney does not govern health or personal care matters.
A Power of Attorney allows someone that you appoint to act on your behalf for financial matters. It is definitely an important element of the end of life checklist in Canada.
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In order to be able to create a Power of Attorney for yourself, the Power of Attorney regulations dictate that you have to be mentally capable at the time you sign the document. You have to be able to appoint your attorney (it doesn’t have to be a lawyer, it can be anyone). You have to be able to appreciate and understand the implications and consequences of decisions related to financial matters.
The Attorney that you designate has a lot of authority. Unless there are specific limitations in your Power of Attorney document that is drafted up, the attorney that you designate can sign cheques, sell your property or buy property under your name, and do regular day to day banking– however, it is clear that the owner is still you, and they are just acting on your behalf.
According to the Canadian government, the Attorney that you choose cannot change your existing will or make a will for you or change beneficiaries in your life insurance.
An Enduring Power of Attorney is what most people think of, when they think of the term “Power of Attorney”. It is also called EPOA or EPA.
A General Power of Attorney means that it ends when the person becomes incapable or dies. An Enduring Power of Attorney is effective right away and continues as the person is incapable and ends when the person dies.
WHY IS A POWER OF ATTORNEY IMPORTANT?
No one wants to think about their health declining, but a Power of Attorney is important to set up especially if you are getting older and may need help managing your financial affairs down the road.
Let’s say you suddenly develop a stroke or heart attack and you live alone. You are hospitalized for weeks and months for rehabilitation but need to have your bills paid (like rent, your utilities, and your phone bill) and you don’t have access (or are accustomed) to modern day conveniences like online banking. You don’t want to lose your home just because the rent is not paid.
HOW MUCH DOES ENDURING POWER OF ATTORNEY COST?
An Enduring Power of Attorney can be drafted up by your lawyer or notary public, the cost depends on where you live, and how much is involved in creasing your EPA document. Also, if you are preparing the EPA alongside typical estate planning like drafting up a Will, the cost will likely be less.
Roughly, it can be around $75-$100 to have an Enduring Power of Attorney set up mainly because it involves witnessing Power of Attorney by a lawyer or notary public.
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REPRESENTATION AGREEMENT ACT: POWER OF ATTORNEY ALTERNATIVE
There are a number of alternatives to an Enduring Power of Attorney. Some people may find that they are too late, for example, when the person is already incapable and you cannot get an Enduring Power of Attorney.
- Pension Trustee– If someone has very simple finances (for example, just OAS and CPP payments and rent and basic utilities due monthly) a person or an organization can be appointed the pension trustee to manage this. A set amount of money can be allocated and dispensed monthly, and the rent and utilities get paid by the pension trustee. If an organization is involved, a small monthly fee is charged to manage the accounts.
- Joint Bank Accounts– Some people have joint bank accounts with their adult children so they can do the banking. All the owners on the joint bank accounts have 100% access to the funds and also there is right of survivorship should one of the joint-owners pass away. Here are some joint bank accounts pros and cons to consider.
- Representation 7 Agreement-As mentioned, sometimes it is too late to be able to arrange for an Enduring Power of Attorney- meaning the person would likely not pass a capability test to be able to manage their own finances. In this case, a Representation 7 Agreement may be helpful as it can cover routine financial affairs. A Representation 7 Agreement does not require a lawyer or notary public to witness it. Nidus (a non-profit personal planning registry in British Columbia) has some Rep 7 and Rep 9 forms that you could fill out. For a Rep 7 Agreement, you would need two independent witnesses to watch you sign. However, if you own real estate property, an Enduring Power of Attorney remains the only option.
If there is no one to manage the money and a Representation 7 Agreement can’t be put in place, and an Enduring Power of Attorney cannot be put in place, then processes like the Committee of Estate and Public Guardian and Trustee would have to be arranged. These are complicated processes that involve much more cost.
Whatever the case, if you do decide to go the Enduring Power of Attorney path, you should make sure that the person you had the so-called ‘keys’ is trustworthy. You should also appoint a Power of Attorney when you are of sound mind and can think clearly about someone who is good with money, who has the time to help you manage your financial affairs, and who is trustworthy to be able to manage your financial affairs.
Hopefully the Power of Attorney meaning is more clear after reading this post. This post is not meant to replace advice or information from a lawyer or notary, please consult your lawyer or notary for more information.
Have you had to arrange to be a financial POA for anyone you know?
GYM is a 30 something millennial interested in achieving financial freedom through disciplined saving, dividend and ETF investing, and living a minimalist lifestyle. Before you go, check out my recommendations page of financial tools I use to save and invest money. Don’t forget to subscribe for blog updates, a free dividend yield spreadsheet, and the free Young Money Bootcamp eCourse.