What if something happens and I become incapable of making basic decisions for myself?

In life, there are aspects we’d prefer not to dwell on, but addressing them proactively can make all the difference. One such area is the power to make critical decisions when you’re unable to do so yourself.

There are three different types of decisions—(1) Property, (2) Personal, and (3) Healthcare. You can assign a trusted family member or friend to make these decisions on your behalf in unfortunate circumstances when you can’t decide for yourself.


Property Power of Attorney is a document that allows you to appoint an individual or individuals who will be authorized to handle your financial and property affairs, such as bill payments, tax filing, and property management. This document may be executed at any time and be made effective either immediately or upon your incompetence.

Without this document, an application has to be made to the Court of King’s Bench, supported by medical evidence, for an Order declaring that you are unable to handle your financial affairs and appointing someone as your property guardian.

Here are a few things to consider when you wish to have a Property Power of Attorney:

  • Attorney

Who do you want to appoint as your attorney? Is it advisable to appoint at least two individuals, and if so, do you want them to act jointly?

  • Eligibility

The person named as your attorney must never have been convicted of a criminal offence relating to assault or other acts of violence, intimidation, harassment, uttering threats, theft, fraud, or breach of trust. If they have, you must acknowledge and consent to the appointment; otherwise, the appointment will be null and void.

  • Effective Date:

A Property Power of Attorney may be effective immediately or on your lack of capacity, which is defined in The Powers of Attorney Act as the inability to understand information and to appreciate the reasonably foreseeable consequences of making or not making a decision regarding your property and financial affairs.

You may specify who can determine whether or not you lack capacity. However, you may not name your appointed Attorney or a family member (see definition at the end). If you do not specify who can make this decision, then The Power of Attorney Act specifies that two healthcare professionals will determine whether or not you lack capacity.


Personal Decisions include where you live, what educational or social programs you may participate in, who would visit you, whether or not you require a personal care provider, and any other aspect of your day-to-day living other than a healthcare decision.

Appointing a Personal Power of Attorney allows the trusted individual (or individuals) to make these decisions when you cannot. You can also determine whether they must act together or successively. If you are still capable of making these decisions yourself, you cannot give authority to someone else to make these decisions for you. 

Without a Personal Power of Attorney appointed, an application to the Court for a personal guardianship appointment would be necessary for someone to have the authority to make personal decisions for you, should you be unable to do so on your own. However, Court applications are time-consuming and costly. 

Capacity is defined as the ability to understand information relevant to making a decision regarding one’s personal affairs and the ability to comprehend and accept the consequences of making (or not making) such decision. According to The Powers of Attorney Act, two qualified medical practitioners must declare in writing that the person lacks capacity.


Healthcare Decisions mean the consent, refusal, or withdrawal of any treatment that is done for a therapeutic, preventative, or palliative purpose related to physical or mental health. A healthcare directive is intended to express your wishes for healthcare (medical) treatments when you cannot speak for yourself. 

You can appoint one or more individuals as your healthcare proxy to make healthcare decisions for you when you lack capacity as well as issue a healthcare directive. Alternatively, you can choose to do either of them alone. 

Capacity is defined as the ability: 

  • To understand information relevant to a healthcare decision respecting a proposed treatment;
  • To appreciate the reasonably foreseeable consequences of making (not making) a healthcare decision respecting a proposed treatment; and  
  • To communicate the healthcare decision on a proposed treatment

In the case when you lack capacity and have not appointed a healthcare proxy, the law specifies that your nearest relative (family member) who is “willing, available and has the capacity to make a healthcare decision” may make a healthcare decision on your behalf.

This person is the first eligible person described in the following list: 

  • The spouse – a person to whom you are married or with whom you are cohabiting or have cohabited, in a relationship of some permanence.
  • An adult son or daughter.
  • A parent.
  • An adult brother or sister.
  • A grandparent.
  • An adult grandchild.
  • An adult uncle or aunt.
  • An adult nephew or niece.

Disclaimer: This Blog is intended to provide readers with general information. Each client’s circumstances and legal solutions might vary. For further details, please reach out to us to learn more.

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