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Wills and estate planning

What to know about powers of attorney Add to ...

A power of attorney gives someone else the right to legally act on your behalf.

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone else – in certain defined situations – the ability to take action and make decisions on your behalf. The only action they can’t take is making a will on your behalf.

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Three types of powers of attorney

In Ontario, there are three different types of powers of attorney you can give someone: 

  1. A non-continuing power of attorney for property
  2. A continuing power of attorney for property
  3. A power of attorney for personal care 

Why you should have a power of attorney

A power of attorney is useful when:

  • You’re going out of the country for an extended period and need someone to do your banking, pay your taxes and manage your other affairs while you’re away.
  • You become mentally or physically disabled and need someone to carry out tasks that you’re mentally or physically unable to do.

Tip: The person you appoint to act for you is called an attorney, but they do not have to be a lawyer. Most often, the person is a family member or close friend. Learn more about choosing an attorney.

If you don’t have a power of attorney

If you become incapable of acting on your own behalf and don’t have a power of attorney, a family member or close friend age 18 or older can apply to the court to become your “guardian of property”. A lawyer can help them with the application process. The application is reviewed by the court to determine whether your proposed guardian is trustworthy, cares about your welfare and is likely to manage your finances responsibly.

A guardian of property has the same duties and powers as an attorney under a power of attorney. The disadvantage is that the person who applies to be a guardian of your property may not be the person you would have chosen. In addition, courts often require the guardian to obtain a bond of indemnity from a bonding company before the guardianship can be finalized. This can be an onerous process.

Naming a substitute attorney

You can name a substitute attorney when making a Power of Attorney in case the person you choose is unable to act as your attorney.

For example, you can name your spouse as your main attorney, but also name another person as a backup in case something happens to your spouse.


Content in this section is provided in partnership with Investor Education Fund, a non-profit organization founded and supported by the Ontario Securities Commission that provides unbiased and independent financial tools to help Canadians make better money decisions. To find out more, go to: GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca


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