A Power of Attorney is a written, signed, dated and witnessed document that gives someone else the right, while you are still alive, to act on your behalf with respect to your financial affairs. This can include paying bills, depositing and investing money on your behalf, debt management, and selling your house. You are called the “Donor” and the person you name to make your financial decisions is known as your “Attorney”. A Power of Attorney can only deal with financial matters. For personal decisions, you need a Personal Directive.
This document can either:
- take effect immediately upon signing and continue if you become incapable of managing your financial affairs; or
- take effect only upon you becoming incapable of managing your financial affairs, or some other specified event (this is also known as a “Springing” Power of Attorney”).
For an Immediate Power of Attorney, your Attorney will be able to use the Power of Attorney as soon as it is signed and witnessed, unless you say otherwise in the document.
An Enduring Power of Attorney may also start immediately and it will continue after your mental incapacitation. Alternatively, an Enduring Power of Attorney can either: commence at a set date in the future and continue after your mental incapacitation, or only commence when you are declared mentally incapable (this last kind is sometimes called a “Springing” Power of Attorney). In your Enduring Power of Attorney you can decide who will determine that you are mentally incapable of handling your personal decisions. If you name someone, the determination will be made by that person. If you do not name someone, the determination will be made by two medical practitioners. Either way, the parties must make a written declaration that you lack capacity (this is called a Declaration of Incapacity).
Unless you restrict your Attorney’s powers, he or she will be able to do almost anything that you can do concerning your finances. Your Attorney can sign documents, start or defend a lawsuit, sell property, make investments and purchase things for you. By law, however, your Attorney cannot change your Will, make a new Will for you, or give a new Power of Attorney on your behalf.
If you become mentally incapacitated and you do not have a Power of Attorney, a court can appoint a Trustee to make financial decisions on your behalf.
For more information, see:
- this booklet of Frequently asked Questions about Powers of Attorney in Alberta.
- this booklet of Frequently asked Questions about Being an Attorney in Alberta.
If you would like multiple copies of any of the above booklets, you can order them for free.
The above information relates to the law in Alberta. For links to information on similar documents in other jurisdictions please see our page of Additional Resources.