Your power of attorney and personal directive documents are one of the best ways to protect yourself in the event of an unexpected emergency. But what exactly are these documents?

 In Alberta, a power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone you trust the power to represent you and make decisions on your behalf.

In general, POAs give someone the authority to carry out common acts that you normally would. For example, this includes paying bills, investing assets, selling your property, or making healthcare decisions. This ability is given in advance through your POA, by you, the “grantor”, “donor”, or “maker” of the document.

In Alberta, there are two types of power of attorney documents — enduring power of attorney and a personal directive. In this article, we’ll break down the difference between the two types of POAs and walk you through the process of making your own power of attorney documents.

What Is An Enduring Power Of Attorney in Alberta?

An enduring power of attorney in Alberta gives someone you trust the power to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are medically incapable. Your attorney is typically given the authority to perform any acts you normally would be able to do, if you were capable. This includes anything related to property and finance, including paying your bills, maintaining your property, managing any investments, or collecting any debts owed to you. One thing an attorney cannot do is make a will on your behalf.

In this article, we are referring only to enduring powers of attorney, which continues past the point of mental capacity. However, there are powers of attorney that are limited — for example, when you are travelling. Willful does not offer non-continuing (or limited) power of attorney documents at this time. 

Why Should Alberta Residents Make An Enduring POA?

In the event you are ever medically incapacitated, your enduring power of attorney is there to protect you. Incapacitation can be a result of anything from accidents to medical emergencies. Having a POA will allow your attorney to step in and conduct transactions on your behalf while you are unable to.

Your enduring POA ensures that your finances and property are in the hands of someone that you trust.  Your POA can bring you additional peace of mind knowing that you won’t miss any bill payments, or have any property maintenance issues during this time. Your attorney will be able to handle anything that comes up. You can think about your enduring power of attorney as a form of disability insurance. You hope it never comes into effect, but it will offer you protection in the event of an unexpected emergency!

What Is A Personal Directive in Alberta?

Your personal directive is a document that appoints someone to make decisions related to your personal care, in the event you are unable to communicate yourself. This can include health care, housing, meals, clothing. In Alberta, the person you appoint to this role in your personal directive is called an agent.

In addition to personal care, your agent is also responsible for communicating life support measures and other personal decisions outlined in your personal directive.

Typically you would choose someone who is familiar with your wishes and has good judgement as your agent. Most people choose a spouse, relative, or close friend who they trust.

What Is A Living Will In Alberta?

A living will typically refers to a document that outlines your wishes for medical treatment or end of life. Alberta does not have living wills. You would document these wishes in your personal directive. In your personal directive, you can provide instructions for your representative on wishes such as medication for pain relief and life support. 

This is different from a last will and testament in Alberta.

Why Should Alberta Residents Make A Personal Directive?

Many people think that only seniors and individuals considering end-of-life care need personal directives. However, you never know when you may experience a medical emergency that will require someone to make medical and personal decisions on your behalf. This doesn’t necessarily only include medical treatments, it can include other personal decisions such as where you want to live, who you’d like to live with, and any other non-financial decisions.

Your personal directive can help guarantee that any personal and medical decisions will be made by someone you trust. It can also bring you peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out, in the event you are incapacitated. Finally, documenting your decisions will also help reduce future stress and burden for loved-ones, so they aren’t left making these difficult decisions on your behalf.

Do I Need A Lawyer To Make An Enduring POA And Personal Directive in Alberta?

No, you do not need a lawyer to make an enduring power of attorney or personal directive in Alberta. However, there you do need to meet certain criteria for your documents to be legally-binding. In Alberta, the requirements are as follows:

  • You must be of sound mind and over the legal age of majority in Alberta
  • The document must be printed and stored as a physical document (you currently cannot store your document digitally)
  • You must sign your document in the presence of two valid witnesses and they must sign to confirm they have witnessed your signature.
  • The signatures must be in wet ink and at the very end of the document (You cannot digitally sign and witness your estate planning documents at this time).

How Can I Make A Power of Attorney Or Personal Directive Alberta?

There are many simple ways to make your enduring power of attorney and personal directive in Alberta. There are several ways to get a legal power of attorney:

  • Online power of attorney platforms - Online platforms like Willful are a convenient and affordable option for anyone looking for personalized POA documents. Willful’s dynamic platform asks you all the important questions, so you can be certain your document reflects your wishes. Your final document will also include detailed instructions on the requirements for witnessing and notarizing to ensure that your document is legally in Alberta.
  • Fill-in-the-blank power of attorney forms - You can often find these forms at a office supply store or post office. They are a good free or low cost option. However, they are typically very cookie-cutter and only account for one option of how your document can be created.  You may find that these forms do not cover all your wishes. If you decide to use a form, it’s important to make sure it meets your wishes and is in compliance with the laws in Alberta
  • Visiting a lawyer - If you have complex wishes or require legal advice, you may want to consider visiting a lawyer.  A lawyer can build a document that can account for any complex requests you may have. However, a customized POA from a lawyer can be very expensive. 

Once you’ve finalized your personal directive in Alberta, you can register your personal directive with the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee to make it easy for healthcare providers to find who your agent is. This step is free! Keep in mind that you don’t need to register your document for it to be valid.

Start For Free. The easiest way to create a legal POA in Alberta from the comfort of your own home. No lawyer required.

Does A Power of Attorney Need To Be Notarized In Alberta?

There are no requirements for your enduring power of attorney or personal directive to be notarized in Alberta. If you’ve followed the guidelines for signing and witnessing, you have a legal power of attorney 

Learn more about rules for notarizing power of attorney in other Canadian provinces.

What Are The Duties Of An Enduring Power Of Attorney In Alberta?

In Alberta, your enduring power of attorney can do anything in relation to property and finances that you could do, except make a will. This includes things like paying bills, collecting debt, applying for benefits, or selling your assets. The only thing your attorney for property cannot do, is make your will.

What Are The Duties Of A Personal Directive Agent in Alberta?

The person you’ve chosen as your representative in your representation agreement can make decisions related to your health care, nutrition, shelter, clothing, hygiene and safety. They are also responsible for communicating your medical wishes, such as pain relief and life support, to doctors and medical professionals. 

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