Q. We have all heard the term Power of Attorney, but what is it exactly?

A. A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the power to act on your behalf. This person is called your “attorney,” though he or she is not usually a lawyer.

You may give a Power of Attorney for Property if you want someone to manage your finances or are worried about being unable to manage them. You may also give Power of Attorney for a limited time if, for example, you plan to be out of the country for a while. “Property” includes your money, home, and anything else you own.

What powers will my attorney be granted?

Unless you limit your attorney's authority they can do anything with your property that you could do, except make a Will or assign a new Power of Attorney on your behalf. Your attorney can act regarding banking, signing cheques, buying or selling real estate, and buying consumer goods. A Power of Attorney for Property does not let your attorney make decisions about where you will live or the medical care you will receive if you become mentally incapaticated. To appoint someone to make such decisions, you must complete a Power of Attorney for Personal Care.

What is a “Continuing Power of Attorney for Property”?

A Continuing Power of Attorney for Property lets your attorney go on acting for you if you become mentally incapable of managing your property. To be valid, the document must be called a Continuing Power of Attorney, or it must state that it gives your attorney the power to act for you if you become mentally incapable.

When does a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property take effect?

It takes effect as soon as it is signed and witnessed, unless you state in the document that you want it to do so at a later date. For example, if you want it to take effect only if you later become incapable to manage your finances, ask your lawyer to make this clear.

Can anyone give Continuing Power of Attorney for Property?

No. To give a valid Continuing Power of Attorney, you must be 18 years of age or older and mentally capable of doing so. That means you must:

• Know what property you have and its approximate value,

• Be aware of your obligations to the people who depend on you financially,

• Know what you are giving your attorney the authority to do,

• Know that your attorney is required to account for the decision he or she makes.

• Know that, as long as you are mentally capable, you can cancel the Power of?Attorney.

• Understand that if your attorney does not manage your property well its value may decrease, and

• Understand that there is always a chance that your attorney will misuse his or her authority.

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