Powers of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a written document appointing someone else to make decisions or take actions on your behalf during your lifetime. In Ontario, the Power of Attorney must now be witnessed in front of two independent witnesses. A Power of Attorney stops the moment you die.

Because of the word “Attorney”, some mistakenly believe that you must appoint a lawyer to take these decisions for you. This is not the case. Think of this document as appointing someone else- your Substitute Decision Maker - to make those decisions in the case where you are unable to make those decisions yourself. Typically you would give this mandate to a spouse or a close family member to act on your behalf, not your lawyer.

In Ontario there are now two distinct types of Powers of Attorney, a power of attorney for things that you own (your bank account, investments, real estate, etc.) called a Power of Attorney for Property and a power of attorney for your personal welfare and health – called a Power of Attorney for Personal Care.

If you signed a Power of Attorney prior to 1992, it covers your property only, it does not cover Personal Care – you would have to make a new Power of Attorney for Personal Care. Even though your old Power of Attorney was only signed by one witness, it remains valid as all older Powers of Attorney, if properly prepared at the time, are “grandfathered”.