Every day, we make financial and health-related decisions and often don’t give these decisions a second thought. But how – and by whom – would these decisions be made if we’re suddenly incapable of making them for ourselves?
You can’t underestimate the importance of having a plan in place for when the inevitable happens. And it will happen to all of us.
Several things could cause you to lose your ability to make your own financial and health decisions, principally death and disability.
You may avoid disability or mental incapacity, but you won’t avoid death.
You’ll want to make sure you have a will in place to dictate what happens to your assets. A will deals with all of your stuff once you’re gone: just how your assets are divided up – after the government gets its share. (Remember that getting married often voids a will, but getting divorced or separated may not.)
In the event of disability or mental incapacity, you need power of attorney (POA) documents. There are two such documents, one for health and one for wealth, and they’re sometimes referred to as a living will.
The POA for health is often called a power of attorney for personal care, an enduring power of attorney for personal care, or some other variation based on the province you live in. This document allows someone to make health choices for you when you’re incapable of making them, such as the lengths that medical professionals should take to try to keep you alive.
A POA for wealth is often called a continuing power of attorney for property. It allows someone to deal with your personal property when you can’t. This could mean you’re incapable of dealing with things due to mental incapacity or for health reasons, but it could also be used if you’re out of the country.
The person or persons you appoint become your attorney. They have the legal right to make decisions for you, just as if you made them yourself, as outlined in the POA. So it’s very important that you choose someone you would trust with your life, since that’s the power you’re giving them.
You can put a clause in either of your POAs that states when they become effective, such as after a doctor deems you unfit or, in the case of a POA for property, when you’re out of the country.
You can download free POA kits on most provincial government websites. But while will kits and do-it-yourself POA kits and government forms are legal, it’s often worth the money to hire a professional to complete these documents for you. One small mistake could have a devastating effect.
If you don’t have these important documents in place, then it becomes extremely difficult for someone to deal with your financial or health-related issues. They would likely need to apply to the courts for control. This can be a very lengthy process and often means your assets are divided up according to provincial standards rather than according to your wishes.
And we should always be concerned about how decisions are made about our lives, whether we make the decisions or someone else does.
Dana Wilson is a freelance writer.
| Troy Media