Enduring Power of Attorney

The will is an important document, but it isn't the only important estate planning document. A will provides for your loved ones after you have died, but shouldn't you also be concerned with protecting yourself while you are still alive? That's where an enduring power of attorney comes in.

In Alberta, the relevant legislation is the Powers of Attorney Act. An enduring power of attorney is a document that assigns someone else to take care of decisions related to your property and finances if you become mentally incompetent. Typically, this document is drafted in such a way that the person you appoint as a representative will assume that role only after you have been determined to be mentally incompetent. In most cases, medical doctors are the ones who determine whether you have in fact become mentally incompetent. However, it is also possible to create an enduring power of attorney that takes effect immediately. This is sometimes useful when the person creating the EPA, known as the donor, comes to the conclusion that they need help from someone to handle basic financial tasks and that perhaps they are not physically up to the task of paying bills, going to the bank, etc.

Because people can expect to live much longer than was common a hundred years ago, many people will spend several years of their lives in a state of mental incompetence. Common causes of this are Alzheimer's Disease and dementia in general. Some people also suffer brain injuries that render them mentally incompetent. Imagine that you get into a car accident at the age of 30 and suffer a brain injury. In such a situation, you may end up being mentally incompetent for several decades.

Clearly the enduring power of attorney is an important document. Those without a enduring power of attorney either end up having no one assist them with their finances or they end up being under the control of the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee. While being under the control of the OPGT is not always bad and may be better than the alternative of not having a financial representative, there is inflexibility inherent in the fact that the OPGT is a department of the Alberta government. Most people would want loved ones who know them to make financial decisions for them.

As such, the enduring power of attorney is a document that every adult living in Canada should have prepared.