The Power of a Power of Attorney

Super HeroI recently had a scenario where the seller of a particular property would only accept one, rigid set of dates for the transaction. Although my buyer was a great candidate for the property, he was unable to be in the country for an extended period of time, and so was faced with the challenge of how to complete on the file while he was absent.

A Power of Attorney (POA) is not a really great lawyer with special super powers. It is actually a document that appoints another individual, labelled as an “attorney”, to deal with any number of issues related to business, property, financial and or legal decisions on your behalf.

Various degrees of power and scope can be applied under a Power of Attorney. The general idea is that you can appoint someone to look after your affairs while you are not available or are incapacitated, either physically or mentally. The duties can be restricted to a singular task or have a wide application over your complete assets. It can be a very useful tool but caution must also be applied.

As the name indicates, you are giving power of some degree to another person (the “attorney”). And while there are some restrictions as to who that can be (for example, health care workers who are not related to you can’t be appointed), you want to make sure that the person chosen can be trusted, is honest and has good judgment.

It is also important to note that there are different types of POAs and different ways to determine how long they will remain valid. For example, in the province of BC a POA related to real estate will expire after 3 years if it is not an Enduring Power of Attorney, which needs to be registered in the Land Titles Office.

Power of Attorney is a useful tool when used in the appropriate manor. In the case above, my client appointed a lawyer to act on his behalf through a POA so that the transaction could be completed while he was out of the country.
Whether you are just out of the country for a period of time or have substantial resources such as real estate, you will want to consider the option of a POA as either a one-time event or as part of your estate planning. As this is a complicated legal matter, always consult with a lawyer for advice and guidance.

You can find more information at:

· The Canadian Bar Association, www.cbabc.org.

  • The Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia, www.trustee.bc.ca. This site has detailed information on powers of attorney, representation agreements and court orders appointing a committee to look after the affairs of a person who is mentally incapable. Their phone number is 604.660.4444.
  • See the provincial government’s website on incapacity planning and the forms that can be used, at www.ag.gov.bc.ca/incapacity-planning.

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