Nobody can predict when legal matters will occur in their lifetime. Yet by being prepared for all eventualities, people are able to ensure the safeguarding their finances, health, and real estate. When it comes down to these three important life elements, it pays to know the difference between power of attorney vs representational agreement.

What is power of attorney?

Power of attorney is a document that gives a person of your choosing the ability to make financial and legal decisions for you. In British Columbia, a power of attorney does not have the authority to make decisions about your health care or personal care – unless you explicitly state that control should continue after you become mentally incapable. This is known as enduring power of attorney.

People generally choose to appoint a relative, significant other, or close friend as their power of attorney in case they become unable to look after their own affairs. For example, if your husband spends 8 months of the year working abroad, he could give his wife power of attorney over his bank account in order to pay the bills.

What is a representation agreement?

In British Columbia, the Representation Agreement Act allows you to appoint someone as your legal representative to take care of your personal care and health care if you become unable to make choices on your own.

There are two types of representation agreement:

  • Limited agreements; these cover ‘everyday’ decisions
  • General agreements; these cover more complex personal and health care decisions including switching off life support in the event of terminal illness

A representation agreement is the only way you can legally appoint someone of your direct choosing to look after your health or personal care, should you become unable to do so, unless you have legally appointed an enduring power of attorney.

Power of attorney or representation agreement?

Both power of attorney and representation agreement is there to safeguard your finances and health. Should you become “mentally incompetent”, power of attorney could end and the fate of your health or personal care will become a legal dispute between family members.

If you choose not to have a representation agreement and you fall unwell, legislation in B.C. still allows people to make decisions on your behalf as part of the Health Care (Consent) and Care Facility (Admission) Act. However, this is a lengthy and time-consuming process. The person chosen by your doctor may also not be your first choice to look after your health, therefore it’s advised to draw up a representation agreement.

By having both power of attorney and representational agreement documents legally organized, you’re actively able to ensure that should anything happen to your well-being, a person or people you trust will be able to make important decisions for you. And as with anything legal, it’s recommended you talk to a law firm before signing any agreements or making any legal decisions that impact your future and that of your family.

Need help navigating power of attorney or representation agreements? Dreyer Davison Family Law firm has over 45 years experience helping individuals and families. Let us know how we can assist you, today. 

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