11.4.5 When you can't act for yourself

From: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

In extreme medical or psychological conditions, or if you're travelling or out of touch, you may not be able to make or communicate your decisions. You can name someone to make financial decisions for you when you can't do so yourself.

Each province and territory has its own rules for this kind of situation, and different names for the documents you use to authorize someone to act for you. For example, some provinces use a power of attorney for personal care or for property, some use a representation agreement and Quebec uses a mandate in case of incapacity.

Although the authorizing documents and the legal details vary, they can be used for several common situations:

  • You could authorize a friend or partner to act for a limited time if you are travelling and need someone to look after your property.
  • You could name a legal representative to take care of your affairs if you become unable to look after them yourself.
  • You could name a family member to make decisions about medical treatment, food, clothing and shelter if you are mentally or physically unable to act for yourself.

Tip

You can authorize more than one person to act for you. For example, you can name your partner or spouse as your main representative and another person as a backup. This is often a good idea if you and your spouse travel together. If both of you were hurt in an accident, you would still have someone legally able to make important decisions for you.

A living will is a type of document that states what you want and don't want your doctors to do if you are not able to express your own wishes. This way, your family will know what to do in a medical crisis—and they won't have to wonder later if they did the right thing.

Examples: Many people write down that they don't want to be kept alive on life support if there is no hope that they'll recover from a bad accident or illness. Many people also state their wishes about organ donation.

Ask a lawyer to help you prepare these documents. The laws that prescribe how to appoint a representative for cases when you cannot act on your own behalf may be very exacting.

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