Surprisingly less than 55% of Canadians have a current and valid Will, and even less have a Power of Attorney (to handle financial affairs) or a Representation Agreement. All three of these documents are necessary in British Columbia for complete coverage in the estate planning process.
A major accident or a long-term mental health illness (such as Alzheimer’s or Dementia) may suddenly eliminate an individual’s capacity to make informed decisions on their financial and/or health care needs.
A Power of Attorney gives the chosen individual(s), such as a family member or friend, the legal authority to make financial decisions on your behalf.
With a Representation Agreement the chosen individual(s) can make health care decisions based on parameters defined in the agreement.
Are there different forms of Representation Agreements?
Yes, there are generally two types of agreements that can be drawn up.
Limited Powers – also referred to as a Section 7 Representation Agreement
- This is generally sufficient to cover basic day to day needs
- May include routine and simplified management of financial matters such as paying bills, filing tax returns, and managing investments
- Allows for medical/dental examinations, testing, and surgeries
- Does not allow for complicated “end of life” needs like refusal of life supporting care & treatment
General Powers – also referred to as a Section 9 Representation Agreement
- Same features as under Limited Powers or Section 7
- Additionally gives the representative the authority to make more complicated and life altering decisions like refusal of certain procedures, services, or surgery. It would include making decisions for admittance to a nursing home or long-term care facility – all which may supersede the incapacitated individual’s wishes at the time of intervention.
Who should you select as your representative?
You can choose any adult over the age of 18, but ensure they are willing to act as your representative beforehand.
Typically for those in a long-term relationship their partner/spouse is the most appropriate choice. Another good choice especially if the individual is single or widowed is to have a child or sibling appointed.
If a family member is not available or appropriate (due to estrangement) select a friend that you trust and who understands your needs and values.
Should no family member or friend exist, then the Public Guardian and Trustee of BC can act on your behalf for a fee. The same is true with using the services of a trust company or credit union. Note: the services of a trust company or credit union would be limited to financial & legal matters only.
Can I do this myself, or must I use the services of a professional?
As with everything in life you get what you pay for! Kits bought through stationary stores for $25 or downloadable packages purchased online are only as valid as the instructions meant to be followed. Like Will packages, many people do not follow the exact instructions and steps are missed, thus invalidating the agreement. This includes not having the document properly witnessed or dated.
For those with simple needs (possibly single with no children) a notary is a very suitable option and is more preferable than a DIY kit.
Almost all law firms offer a package deal where the Will, Power of Attorney and Representation Agreement can be purchased as a reasonable package. This is especially true if both partners/spouses do their own estate plans at the same time.
Those with blended families including children from a first or second marriage are best to use the services of a lawyer specializing in Wills & Estates.