When does a Power of Attorney in Ontario take effect?

an elderly man reviewing paperwork as his daughter watches. how to invoke a power of attorney in Ontario

Disclaimer: This article on how to invoke a power of attorney in Ontario is intended for the purpose of providing information only. Iis to be used only for the purposes of guidance. This article is not intended to be relied upon as the giving of legal advice and does not purport to be exhaustive.

We have discussed the importance of drafting powers of attorney as part of your estate planning process. A power of attorney documents your wishes related to your personal care and your finances if you do not have the capacity to make those choices for yourself. 

However, when does your power of attorney take effect? This article will answer that question and other commonly asked questions relating to powers of attorney. 

Each family and situation is unique, as are the choices you must make in your estate planning. We help families just like yours with these decisions every single day. Book your complimentary consultation with our team to learn more. 

What is a Power of Attorney (POA)?

A Power of Attorney is a legal document. It gives someone you trust, the “attorney,” the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf if you become mentally incapable.  Appointing an attorney to manage your affairs is no small matter. You must trust this person quite a bit – after all, they can make decisions regarding your finances or personal care wishes.

The Different Types of Power of Attorney

There are two types of Power of Attorney: Property and Personal Care.

Power of Attorney for Personal Care

This type of POA pertains to health and personal care decisions. It authorizes someone (the attorney) to make choices regarding medical treatment, long-term care, housing, and overall well-being when the grantor cannot. It includes decisions about going into long-term care, accepting or refusing treatment and other important decisions. 

Power of Attorney for Property

In contrast, the Power of Attorney for Property delegates authority over financial matters, including bank accounts, real estate, investments, and other financial affairs.  Your attorney would act as you in making financial decisions, such as managing bank accounts, buying or selling property, investing assets, paying bills, and handling day-to-day financial transactions.

How to Make a Power of Attorney in Ontario Take Effect

Power of Attorney for Personal Care

A Power of Attorney for Personal Care will only take effect when the grantor is incapable of making decisions themselves.

 Who determines if the grantor has become incapable or cannot make their own decisions? That depends on the wording of your Power of Attorney. 

In some instances, the attorney can make that determination themselves. In other cases, you may need to arrange for a capacity assessment. It may be that your power of attorney requires that the grantor’s incapacity be proven before it comes into effect. You may also need to have one completed before moving your loved one into long-term care.

We discuss capacity assessments in detail here, but capacity assessors are a distinct group of health professionals qualified to determine whether or not you can make your own decisions and understand the impacts of those decisions relating to your care. 

Power of Attorney for Property

A Power of Attorney for Property is also sometimes called a Continuing Power of Attorney because it can take effect immediately unless you state otherwise.  That means your attorney can use the power of attorney at any time – whether you need them to or not! You can also include language that your attorney can only make decisions once you are mentally incapable. 

Carefully consider how you want to word your power of attorney. On one hand, it can be wise to set up a safeguard to how and when someone can use a power of attorney. On the other hand, obtaining a capacity assessment takes time, meaning your attorney must wait to exercise their authority. This means that there may be a delay in being able to pay bills or handle other important matters. 

Additionally, some financial institutions may require a capacity assessment before your attorney for property can do anything, even with a valid power of attorney in place.  

Can I revoke my power of attorney? 

Yes, you can revoke or cancel your power of attorney. You can revoke a power of attorney by: 

  • creating a new power of attorney; or
  • creating a written declaration, known as a “revocation” or a Notice of Revocation. 

It’s best to speak with a lawyer to ensure it complies with Ontario’s estate law.  

I have been appointed an attorney but cannot fulfill the role. Now what? 

Yes, you can resign as a power of attorney if you are unable or unwilling to fulfill the duties effectively. Acting as an attorney is an important role. Therefore, it is wise to consider carefully whether you are up to the challenge. We discuss some of the nuances in this article, but it may be as simple as a written statement formally resigning.  

What if there is no power of attorney?

If you do not have a power of attorney, your family can go to court and have the court appoint someone as your attorney. If you do not have someone willing or able to take on this responsibility, the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee may become involved. 

It is much better to prepare ahead of time and appoint someone in advance. If not, someone may make decisions regarding your healthcare, property and finances that do not align with your wishes.   

Preparing your Wills and Power of Attorney with Beeksma Law

At Beeksma Law, we understand the significance of meticulous legal planning. Our team specializes in guiding individuals through creating Wills and Powers of Attorney tailored to their needs, ensuring clarity and compliance with Ontario laws.

Seeking legal advice when establishing one ensures that your wishes are accurately documented and safeguarded. Let us help you give your family the greatest gift of all – peace of mind. Contact us today to begin. 

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