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You may think your spouse or another family member could automatically step in and take care of your finances, but that's not always the case. Unless you draw up what is called an enduring power of attorney - which means it continues even if you become mentally incompetent - you and your family could be in for an unpleasant experience.

What happens if you don't have an enduring power of attorney? The government, through the public trustee, could take over your bank account, investment portfolio, and other assets without consulting your family, although rules vary from province to province. The government's duty is to protect your interests, even though its decisions may not be what you want.

What can a Power of Attorney do for you?

A power of attorney gives someone you trust the power to make decisions for you - except change your will. Ideally, you should have your lawyer draw one up when you are preparing your will. The cost is minimal and well worth it.

A power of attorney is automatically revoked when you die, at which time the person you appoint as executor in your will takes over. You can revoke a power of attorney by advising your appointee in writing.

You should also have your lawyer prepare a power of attorney for personal care, also known as a “living will”. Depending on your province, you can designate someone to make medical decisions on your behalf and outline the type and extent of medical treatment you desire under different circumstances. As with a financial power of attorney, the person you appoint to make such important decisions should be someone you trust and who knows what you would want done. 
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