Powers of Attorney - Introduction

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the power to act on your behalf. 

In Ontario, the Substitute Decisions Act sets out the law about the two types of power of attorney that can be used if you become mentally incapable: a power of attorney for personal care and a continuing power of attorney for property.

Power of Attorney for Personal Care

A power of attorney for personal care is a document where you name someone to become your attorney to make personal care decisions on your behalf if you become mentally incapable of making those decisions yourself.  An attorney is not a lawyer but a person that you trust to make decisions for you when you are not able to do so yourself.  Personal care decisions refer to decisions about your health care and medical treatment, diet, housing, clothing, hygiene and safety. A power of attorney for personal care lets you state what you want and what you do not want with respect to your personal care decisions (these are called wishes). For example, if there are certain medical procedures you would not wish to receive, such as blood transfusions, you would specifically state that in your power of attorney for personal care.  No decision can be made by an attorney for personal care unless you have been found to be mentally incapable of making that decision.

Continuing Power of Attorney for Property

A continuing power of attorney for property is a legal document that lets you appoint an attorney to make financial and other property decisions for you.  An attorney is not a lawyer but a person that you trust to make decisions and manage your property on your behalf.  Depending on how the power of attorney is written, your attorney may have authority to:  (1) act for you both when you are capable and when you are mentally incapable; or (2) act only when you have been found mentally incapable of managing your property/finances in accordance with the law.  In order to ensure the validity of this power of attorney, it must either be called a “continuing power of attorney for property” or it must specifically state that your attorney has been given the right to continue acting for you if you become mentally incapable.

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