Enduring Power of Attorney

Enduring power of attorneyAn Enduring Power of Attorney is a legal document for advance planning in British Columbia.

The document gives power from one (competent) adult (the donor) to another (competent) adult (the agent or attorney) to do certain things or take actions on the donor’s behalf regarding financial and legal matters.

It is a way for someone to authorize an agent to manage their financial and legal affairs, especially helpful when a person needs some assistance due to illness, injury and disability.

Types of Powers of Attorney

Types of POAsGeneral – effective at once, ends on incapability, revocation or death – less common

 Limited – like general, but for  specific purpose(s) and/or limited periods of time – also less common

 Enduring – most common now – active now and continues into incapability until revocation or death

 Springing – somewhat  common –  not active until incapability (or other ‘trigger’) and with capability trigger, ends if the donor regains capability or death

NOTE: These categories are not mutually exclusive – an EPOA or Springing POA can be limited or have restrictions

Choosing the Right Agent

A crucial part of the process in creating an EPOA is a discussion about who should be appointed.  They really need to implicitly trust the person you are handing your affairs over to.  In a worst-case scenario they really can clean out your bank account and abscond to another jurisdiction, leaving you penniless.  Given the record keeping and reporting requirements under the Power of Attorney Act and Regulations, when choosing between two children or friends to be an Attorney, we recommend they prefer a ‘fastidious nerd’ over a ‘sloppy klutz,’ assuming they are equally trustworthy.

Example of Clauses

Example of Clause -Enduring

To make an ‘Enduring’ Power of Attorney, the following clause must be included:

“My Attorney may exercise the authority granted by this Enduring Power of Attorney while I am capable of making decisions about my financial affairs, and this authority continues despite my incapability to make those types of decisions.”

Example of Clause – Springing Power of Attorney

“This power of attorney is subject to the following conditions and restrictions:

This Power of Attorney shall not be used unless and until two doctors have provided letters stating that I am either physically or mentally incapable of managing my own affairs.”

NOTE – this is just one example of the many ways to set up a ‘trigger’ for a springing POA to come into effect.

Attorney signing

A recent requirement is that an Attorney must sign an EPOA before exercising their authority. If a person who is named as an Attorney does not sign the POA, then the person is not required or legally able to act as an Attorney.  If a person named as Attorney does not sign, the authority of any other named Attorney who has signed is not affected (unless the POA states otherwise).

Capacity Test – EPOA

Another recent change is a statutory capacity test,  Section 11 reminds us, as always, that capability should be presumed:

11  (1) Until the contrary is demonstrated, an adult is presumed to be capable of

(a) making decisions about the adult’s financial affairs, and

(b) understanding the nature and consequences of making, changing or revoking an enduring power of attorney.

(2) An adult’s way of communicating with others is not grounds for deciding that the adult is incapable of making the decisions or having the understanding referred to in subsection (1).

Section 12 sets out the capacity test:

12  (1) An adult may make an enduring power of attorney unless the adult is incapable of understanding the nature and consequences of the proposed enduring power of attorney.

(2) An adult is incapable of understanding the nature and consequences of the proposed enduring power of attorney if the adult cannot understand all of the following:

(a) the property the adult has and its approximate value;

(b) the obligations the adult owes to his or her dependants;

(c) that the adult’s attorney will be able to do on the adult’s behalf anything in respect of the adult’s financial affairs that the adult could do if capable, except make a will, subject to the conditions and restrictions set out in the enduring power of attorney;

(d) that, unless the attorney manages the adult’s business and property prudently, their value may decline;

(e) that the attorney might misuse the attorney’s authority;

(f) that the adult may, if capable, revoke the enduring power of attorney;

(g) any other prescribed matter.  (none prescribed at this time).

Alternatives to a Power of Attorney

Alternative to EPOA – s. 7 RA

A section 7 Representation Agreement can be a useful alternative when an older adult is not able to meet the capacity tests for an enduring power of attorney.  A s.7 RA can include the power for ‘routine financial management.’   This may be sufficient for small, simple estates (no credit cards, mortgages, loans, etc.).  See below for more information on s. 7 RA’s (also the Nidus website – www.nidus.ca)

Alternative – Pension Trustee

When an older adult has a very simple financial situation (e.g. – just CPP/OAS/GIS as income, just rent & utilities as expenses) someone else can be their ‘pension trustee.’  A person or an organization (e.g. the “Bloom Group” (formerly St. James)) can apply.  For further discussion on pension trusteeship, see our page.

Alternative – Joint Bank Account

If all a senior needs is help with banking, they might consider a joint bank account with their spouse, trusted family member/friend.  This is dangerous though – other will have full access to all $ in account (a “license to steal”).  There may also be the ‘right of survivorship’ – full account passing automatically to this person on death – may not be intended (see Pecore case though re. presumption of ‘resulting trust’).

Alternative – Trust Agreement

A trust is an agreement between two people, for the benefit of a third.  Various types with different tax and planning benefits.  Can be revocable or irrevocable; discretionary on non-discretionary.  Can be inter-vivos, can survive death.

Power of Attorney Resources

EPOA Precedents

  1. A client questionnaire for preparation of a power of attorney is here: Power of Attorney Questionnaire
  2. An EPOA from the CBA-BC is here: EPOA – Enduring_Power_of_Attorney- Single Attorney and Alternate – CBA
  3. A checklist for a power of attorney is here: Checklist – Power-of-Attorney
  4. We recommend always providing the named attorney(s) with the Nidus information sheet on their roles and responsibilities: Role of an Attorney in an EPA
  5. Finally, we like to give the attorney the Power of Attorney document, after they have signed it, in an envelope (6″ X 9″) that includes instructions to them on the outside: EPOA envelope 6X 9.   The attorney should also be referred to our attorney toolkit page.
Suggested Procedure - Advance Planning Documents
Suggested Procedure – Advance Planning Documents

Nidus Resources:

UBC Law Students Legal Advice Plan

LSLAP Manual: Chapter 15 – Adult Guardianship and Substitute Decision-Making

MyLawBC – Legal Services Society

The newest resource (planned for early 2016) will have ‘guided pathways’(a series of Q&As to help diagnose a legal issue and generate a step-by-step action plan) in the following areas:

  • family law issues around divorce and separation,
  • family violence,
  • advanced planning (EPOAs, RAs)
  • wills and estates, and

MyLawBC will “integrate available personal assistance, over the phone and online.”