Personal Choice. Self-determination. Your right to decide about your own care; where you want to live; what you want to eat; who you want to look after you; where to spend your money – these choices and our ability to make them for ourselves, allows us to feel in control of our own life. They are the things most people take for granted; the things we think we will always be able to do for ourselves. But, what if one day you can’t? What if either because of an illness that gradually robs you of the ability to do these things or, an injury that does so suddenly, this is taken away from you? Who will make these decisions for you? While this is not something anyone likes to talk about, the reality is, it is a very important thing to raise and discuss this with people you care about, regardless of age or situation because none of us knows what tomorrow will bring. Planning for what you would like to happen, in the event that you need someone else to make decisions for you in the future is called “Advance Care Planning” and the legal documents that support this in Ontario are a Power of Attorney for Personal Care and a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property. Every person over 18 should have both.
A Power of Attorney for Personal Care is a legal document that appoints one or more people the right to make decisions on your behalf that specifically relate to your care or treatment if you are deemed incapable of making those decisions for yourself. Your “attorney” should be the person or persons you trust and they are your “substitute decision-maker(s)”. They should be someone who knows you and what you would want in most situations. While they may not share your values and beliefs, they should understand them and be willing and able to uphold them, in the event that they are asked to make a decision on your behalf. It would be best if you had conversations with that person (or persons) about your wishes in the event that you require care/medical intervention in the future.
A Continuing Power of Attorney for Property is a legal document that allows at least one person to act on your behalf if you become incapable of managing your financial affairs. This person can be but does not have to be, the same person as your substitute decision-maker. You should trust that the person (or persons) can properly manage your financial affairs as they will have full authority to manage your money and property.
You do not need a lawyer to draft your Powers of Attorney though, it would be wise to consult one and have him/her prepare the necessary documents. There are some basic components all Powers of Attorney need to have in order to be valid, so if you choose not to have a lawyer create one for you, you may download a basic form from the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee at www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/family/pgt/poa.pdf that can be completed on your own.
Once you have completed your Powers of Attorney, keep the originals in a safe place and make sure that you have at least one copy that is easily accessible. Ensure those you have asked to be your attorney(s) are aware of their potential responsibilities and tell them of the whereabouts of the original documents.