Do you and your parents have powers of attorney?

If someone suffers a cognitive decline and loses their ability to manage their financial affairs, it’s a common misconception that a loved one can automatically step in and take over. That’s only the case when the person in need has made a power of attorney for property.

The “power of attorney” is the legal document, and “attorney” refers to the spouse, sibling, adult child or other individual named to act on one’s behalf. In Quebec, the document is a “mandate,” and the individual providing support is a “mandatory.”

Avoid complications
Without a power of attorney, things can get complicated. If a spouse, sibling, adult child or another person wants to manage the individual’s financial matters, they must apply to the provincial court to become the incapacitated person’s representative, which can take time. This process sometimes leads to conflict if family members don’t agree on who should assume responsibility. If no one steps in, a government representative would need to manage the person’s finances.

Sooner is better than too late
It’s important to find out if your parents have a power of attorney for property and that you also have a power of attorney for yourself.. Some people put off getting a power of attorney while they’re cognitively healthy because they believe dementia or cognitive impairment only happens at an older age. However, you must be mentally capable to sign the document, so continually putting it off risks being unable to sign. Also, cognitive impairment resulting from a stroke, illness or injury can occur at a younger age.

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