If you’re here, you’ve probably been named as a power of attorney for healthcare – so what next?

If you’ve never acted as a POA for healthcare before, you might be wondering what this means for you. In this article we’ll discuss everything you need to know about the responsibilities of an attorney for health and healthcare.

What Is A Power Of Attorney For Personal Or Health Care?

The person appointed in a power of attorney for healthcare helps make healthcare decisions for an individual, in the event they are unable to do so themselves. The person who made the legal document is typically referred to as the ‘grantor’, ‘donor’, of ‘maker’.

A power of attorney for healthcare document and the role itself has different names across Canada. You may also see this document called a representation agreement, personal directive, or advanced directive. The role may be called an agent, representative, or an attorney for personal care. Here is a breakdown on power of attorney by province. 

The official terminology is determined by the grantor’s province of residence.

Why Would Someone Appoint Me As An Attorney Or Representative For Healthcare?

Power of attorney for healthcare is a legal document that gives someone you trust the ability to make healthcare decisions on their behalf. If you’ve been appointed as a representative or attorney (in this situation, attorney does not refer to a lawyer), the maker of the document is trusting you to represent them in the event they are incapacitated.

They have likely made this decision based on their relationship with you, your ability to make critical decisions, and their wishes. The grantor has likely also nominated an attorney to represent them on the property and financial side of things in a power of attorney for property.

What Are The Duties And Responsibilities Of An Attorney For Healthcare?

As an attorney for healthcare, your responsibility is to make decisions related to the health and personal care of the grantor. This often includes decisions such as:

  • Healthcare
  • Housing
  • Meals
  • Clothing
  • Life Support

Each individual may have their own wishes for their attorneys or representatives. If you know ahead of time that you’ve been nominated, it’s important to discuss these wishes with the maker of the document. This way, you can feel educated and confident to take on the responsibilities in the event of you need to step into the role. 

For healthcare decisions, these wishes are often also outlined in the power of attorney document or in a separate advance health care directive. (You may know this as a living will.) This document is legally binding and you must follow the wishes outlined in the POA.

When Does Power Of Attorney For Healthcare Come Into Effect?

Power of attorney for care  comes into effect when the grantor or maker of the document becomes infirm, unable to communicate, or otherwise mentally incapable. 

Power of attorney is a legal document that you hope never has to come into effect and for many people it never does. An attorney or representative nominated in a POA for healthcare maintains their power to act until the grantor becomes mentally capable again or passes away. If they pass away, a will then comes into effect.

If a power of attorney for healthcare is never selected, a family would need to apply to become a court-appointed guardian to take on a similar role.

Do I Have To Accept The Role Of Attorney For Healthcare?

No – even if you’re named as an attorney on a POA, you do not need to accept the role if you are unable or unwilling. This can be a large responsibility and requires you to make many critical decisions, so you should be confident in your decision if you decide to take on the role.

However, if someone lets you know that they would like to name you as their attorney or healthcare representative, it’s important to let them know if you are uncomfortable with the role sooner rather than later. This way they can choose another person and update their documents accordingly.

If the grantor has created their documents with Willful, they will likely also have picked a backup – just in case!

Please note that Willful is not a law firm and cannot provide legal advice. All information in our Learn Centre is general and public information can also be researched through your provincial Attorney General website.