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What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document. When you give someone power of attorney you give him or her the legal power to take care of financial and legal matters for you. This might include paying bills, depositing or withdrawing money from your bank account, investing your money or selling your house.

The person you give this power to is called the attorney (in this case, attorney does not mean lawyer). You are called the adult.

Why Have a Power of Attorney?

There are many reasons people make a power of attorney. One reason is because they are physically unable to look after their affairs due to travel or injury.

Example: Anita is leaving the country to visit her grandchildren. She may be gone for a long time. She wants to give her niece the authority to pay her bills when she is away. Anita makes a power of attorney.
Another reason is in case they become “mentally incapable” due to illness, disease or accident.

Example: Franz had an accident at work. He is in hospital in a coma. Franz and his wife Helga have a joint bank account so Helga can pay the bills. However, their car is in Franz’ name and the insurance is due. Franz can’t sign. Helga wishes Franz had made an enduring power of attorney so she could use it to renew the insurance.

If you become “mentally incapable” and you do not have a power of attorney, your family may have to go to court to get the legal right to manage your affairs.
A power of attorney is a simple and inexpensive way to plan ahead and choose who will help you with your finances.

Pre-planning for health care decisions

The law sets out who will make health care and treatment decisions for you when you no longer can. You can plan ahead by making a representation agreement that names whoever you want to make those decisions, such as a friend, relative, spouse, or adult children.
For the legal remedy that best suits your circumstances, you should consult with a lawyer or Notary Public.

Who can be an attorney?
You can choose anybody as your attorney, so long as they are:

  • 19 years or older.
  • Able to understand the responsibilities involved.

Most people choose their husband, wife, friend, or other family member. You can appoint more than one person. if you do, you must write in the document whether they will act together or individually.

If you name only one attorney, it is very important to name an alternate who will take over if something happens to your attorney. However, you also need to describe very clearly the circumstances when an alternate may take over.

Your attorney will have significant power, so choose somebody you trust, and who is comfortable with financial matters. Take the time to talk with that person about what you want and would expect them to do.

For a fee you can choose a trust company as your attorney. You can also name the Public Guardian and Trustee (a government official).