Why You Should Get A Will, A Personal Directive, and A Power of Attorney at the Same Time

man with blonde hair in blue button up shirt sitting with woman with brown hair. they are reviewing their wills with a lawyer

Posted by heritagelaw on Aug 15, 2021 in Blog, Wills & Estate

Dying wishes are the last things anyone wants to think about, especially those who are young and young at heart.

The truth is that, regardless of your age, it’s important to get your life’s assets in order and start thinking about setting up a will, a power of attorney, and a personal directive – just in case.

The thought of making a will and appointing some to make your decisions should you become incapacitated is a bleak and intimidating one but you need to make sure you are taken care of legally by planning for unforeseen circumstances in the future.

This article is going to explore exactly what a will, personal direction, and power of attorney are as well as why you should consider having all three done at the same time.

Let’s start by taking a look at what each of these terms mean:

What is a Will?

A will is a type of legal document that outlines your wishes including the distribution of your property upon your death. Without a will, those wishes may not be carried out and the way your assets are divided may be decided by the court.

All in all, a will allows you to dictate how your belongings, such as bank balances and property, are distributed and to whom they are distributed to.

Having a will is extremely important, especially when there are minor children left behind. Your will can state who should take over as guardian for your children as well as who should manage any trust funds set up in their names.

Your will also names an executor who is the individual in charge of ensuring your wishes are respected and carried out as you want them to be.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney, or POA, is a legal document that gives one person (known as the agent or attorney-in-fact) the power to act on behalf of another person (the principal).

This can include broad or limited legal authority when it comes to making legal decisions regarding the principal’s property, finances, or medical care.

The power of attorney is often used when an illness or disability has rendered the principal unable to make legal decisions or if the principal cannot be present to sign necessary legal documents.

A POA allows you to appoint someone to deal with your financial affairs such as:

  • Access your financial accounts to pay bills.
  • File taxes on your behalf.
  • Make investment decisions on your behalf.
  • Collect your debts.
  • Manage your property.
  • Apply for public benefits on your behalf.

While there are very few limitations on what a POA can cover when it comes to financial decisions, there are certain things an agent cannot do such as change your will, make financial decisions after your death, or change/transfer the POA to someone else.

They can, however, decline their position as agent at any time – but they cannot appoint someone to take their place. You would have to appoint an alternate agent in your POA in case this happens.

What is a Personal Directive?

Alternatively, a personal directive is a legal document that allows you to determine in advance of an injury or illness who will make personal and non-financial decisions on your behalf. This person is also known as an agent.

In Alberta, the law prevents another person to automatically make decisions for you if you become incapacitated.

If you do not have a personal directive, healthcare professionals may select a family member to make some healthcare decisions on your behalf. If your ability to make decisions is permanently affected, your family may have to apply to court to become your guardian.

Decisions that the agent can make for you include:

  • Medical treatments.
  • Where you would like to live.
  • Who you would like to live with.
  • Who will care for your minor children.
  • Choices about other personal activities such as education and employment.
  • Any other personal and legal decisions.

A personal directive allows you and your family to avoid the uncertainty should you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself.

man signs document with lawyer

Why Should I Get All Three Done at the Same Time?

Now that you understand what a will, power of attorney, and personal directive are, you can probably begin to see how all three related closely to each other.

The purpose of having all three done at the same time is so that your wishes are carried out with clear instructions – when you’re alive as well as when you die.

Otherwise, it can be difficult for family members and loved ones to act upon your wishes and best interests when the decision is a hard one to make, both personally and financially.

Having a personal directive and power of attorney ensures that, while you are still living, your best interests will be taken care of if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. A will guarantees that your last wishes are respected when you pass away.

Plus, having all three done at the same time will save you money. Much of the information on the forms is the same, so it takes less time for a lawyer to review and file the paperwork to give you and your loved one’s peace of mind.

When You Can’t Speak for Yourself, Who Will Speak For You?

You can remove the stress and complications your loved ones will face by taking care of the proper legal documentation – whether you are single, married, or have a family.

The forms required to establish your will, personal directive, and power of attorney are available on our website here.

You can complete them together or separately – once submitted to us, our team at Heritage Law will contact you for the next steps.

If you have any questions at all regarding your will, personal directive, and power of attorney, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us for more information!