Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives the person you appoint (called your attorney) the power to handle your financial or legal affairs. Lawyer Theresa Arsenault advises that there are three types of documents ? a specific power of attorney, a general power of attorney, and an enduring power of attorney.

A specific power of attorney is used for a limited purpose or a limited period of time. For example, you might give your daughter a specific power of attorney to sign the legal documents for the sale of your car while you are out of the country.

A general power of attorney gives someone the authority to deal with all your financial and legal affairs. A general power of attorney ends, advises Arsenault, when you become incapable, when you or your attorney dies, or if the court appoints a ?committee? to make decisions for you.

An enduring power of attorney is a general power of attorney with special wording that allows it to continue if you become mentally incapable.

?It is important to understand?, says Arsenault, ?that a power of attorney only gives someone the authority to deal with your financial and legal affairs. It does not give anyone the right to make health or medical care decisions for you if you become incapable of making those decisions yourself. A representation agreement is needed for that.? (Representation agreements will be discussed in another article.)

Arsenault says it is common for people to make three legal documents: a will, an enduring power of attorney, and a representation agreement.

General power of attorney is a powerful document,? warns Arsenault. ?Your attorney can deal with any of your assets in any way, so choose your attorney carefully. Make sure it?s someone you trust completely or appoint two or three people who must act together.? There have been cases, she cautions, where the attorney has cleaned out someone?s bank account when the person becomes incapable.

A power of attorney comes into effect as soon as it is signed. You can revoke (cancel) it anytime if you are still mentally capable of making that decision. If you decide to revoke the power of attorney, you can destroy the original document and notify the attorney in writing that you are revoking it, and send copies to companies or individuals that may be relying on the document (e.g., financial institutions).

Theresa Arsenault is a lawyer who practices wills and estates law with Pushor Mitchell in Kelowna.

The purpose of this article is educational in nature. It is not intended as legal advice. It offers general information only. If you have a legal problem, you should seek professional advice.