What is a Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardian and Why do I need one?

Suppose you are in an accident or become very ill. Suppose that as a consequence you are left in a coma or incapacitated. Who will pay your bills? Who will do your banking? Who will handle your money for you and ensure you receive proper care?

Contrary to popular belief, your parents, spouse or significant other are not always automatically empowered to make those decisions on your behalf. In many situations, without your express authority through a properly executed instrument, nobody else has the right to handle your finances or decide what health care you receive if you lose the capacity to make that decision for yourself. As to your finances, if you have not appointed anybody, it may be necessary for the Guardianship Tribunal—a government body—to appoint someone to be your legal guardian.

You would have no say in who the Guardianship Tribunal appoints. That is why it is essential to have a Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardian document drafted to ensure that you have that base covered. By hopping on the front foot, you can control who makes those decisions in the event something unforeseen happens to you. It’s your life and they’re your finances, so why not have your say.

So what’s the difference between a Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardian?

A Power of Attorney is a document that authorises a person to manage your financial affairs. The document has many applications, however the most obvious application is in the event due to some unforeseen circumstance you lose the capacity to look after your own finances. An alternate application is if you were travelling overseas and had bills and expenses that needed to be paid back home. In that circumstance you could appoint someone as Attorney for such time as you were travelling abroad. An Enduring Guardian document is a stronger document.

It empowers your appointee to make lifestyle choices on your behalf should you become incapacitated. An Enduring Guardian empowers the appointee to make almost whatever lifestyle choices you direct through the document. These usually include things such as what health care you receive, what medical procedures you undergo and what in-home care you receive.

These two documents afford you the peace of mind in knowing that in the event of unforeseen circumstances, you have a person appointed to deal with your financial and lifestyle matters and a set of guidelines and instructions which they must follow in making those decisions for you. Of course, everyone hopes to never be in the position of needing a Power of Attorney or Enduring Guardian. However, it is best to have the document there as a safeguard should something unforeseen happen to you.

The document does not give anyone any power until such time as that unforeseen circumstance occurs. Almost everyone should have these two documents to protect their interests.