Authority and purpose of power of attorney

Q: A financial adviser is urging me to name a power of attorney. Is this a good idea from a legal standpoint?

A: The purpose of a power of attorney is to appoint someone you trust to act on your behalf if you are unable to handle your own affairs.

This is most often the case when there is mental or physical impairment, but it can also be a useful mechanism when you are going to be out of the country for an extended period of time.

There are two power of attorney designations: property and personal. The property one gives the person appointed the authority to deal with real and personal property, pay taxes, collect debts that are owed, pay bills and handle banking, business and property requirements.

A personal power of attorney has authority to make decisions about where you will live, maintenance and social arrangements.

If someone with a power of attorney is going to make decisions about changing your place of residence as an elderly person, he should have a personal power of attorney as well as a property one.

Most powers of attorney give broad powers to deal with both personal and property matters.

It is possible to give limited powers of attorney, extending this power to a person regarding the sale of real estate, for example. Some powers of attorney are limited by time.

Most are enduring powers of attorney because they will stay in effect even if the client later loses mental capacity. This specification needs to be contained in the power of attorney document.

The person granted these powers is governed by legislation to act in the best interests of you and your estate.

You may request that person give you an account of his handling of your affairs at any time. You can revoke the power in writing.

Specific task or time period powers of attorney end when the task is completed or the time period expires. Your attorney can also resign, and this is usually done by giving you written notice.

Also, an enduring power of attorney ends if the attorney no longer meets the criteria for being appointed. That includes if he becomes bankrupt, becomes your personal or health caregiver for remuneration or if convicted of certain offences.

Any interested party can ask, on your behalf, for an accounting from the person who has been granted this power, especially if you are not in a position to request that yourself.

In Saskatchewan, the office of the Public Guardian and Trustee has the authority to assist in getting such an accounting, and if necessary, an application can be made to the court for assistance in getting an accounting and overseeing the power of attorney relationship.

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