What is a Representation Agreement and how is it different from a Power of Attorney?
While everyone is familiar with the concept and importance of a Last Will and Testament, it is essential to know that, since a will only comes into play after your passing, there are other crucial planning documents that are for use during your lifetime that should be included in your estate planning.
A Representation Agreement is a key legal document used in British Columbia that allows you to appoint someone (a representative) that will assist you or act on your behalf when making decisions to do with your personal health care. It is the only way that you can specifically choose someone to be your legal representative and manage your personal and health care needs when planning for the possibility of future incapacity.
This legally enforceable document allows a person (or people) of your choosing to represent your best interests, help you manage your affairs and, if necessary, make health and personal care decisions if you become ill, injured, disabled or otherwise incapable. As well as choosing your representative, the agreement can include specific personal or medical wishes that you may have.
Without a Representation Agreement, you will not be in control of who will help you or make decisions on your behalf. The government still allows people to make decisions for you, but the person chosen by your doctor may not be your first choice to look after your personal care. Additionally, it may take away some of the burden and stress away from family and friends since they will know that you made these decisions for yourself ahead of time.
What is the difference between a Representation Agreement and a Power of Attorney?
Nobody can predict when medical, financial and legal matters will occur. By being prepared for everything, you can protect your assets and personal wishes should you become ill or incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself. Two important incapacity planning documents are a Representation Agreement and Power of Attorney. While they are both very different, they are commonly confused and it is important to know the difference between them.
These documents are both legally binding, recognized by the courts and are there to safeguard your finances and health should you become unable to do so yourself. A Representation Agreement gives authority to those of your choosing to make decisions regarding health and personal care and a Power of Attorney gives authority to make decisions regarding legal and financial matters.
Power of Attorney allows someone else to manage all aspects of finances, including bank accounts and property. This power includes paying bills, making tax returns, claiming benefits, day-to-day banking, borrowing money, and even buy or sell real estate.
As mentioned previously, General Power of Attorney can be general or specific. A general power of attorney gives the authority to do anything that you (the donor) could do yourself—as described above. A specific power of attorney only gives authority for a particular purpose (to sell a property) or for a temporary timeframe (while the donor is out of town).
Enduring Power of Attorney allows you to decide who you will trust to make financial and legal decisions for you in case you are no longer mentally capable. If you fail to put any plans in place and do become mentally incapable, the court may have to appoint someone to make decisions for you, a committee.
Both powers of attorney—general and enduring, allow you to place your important financial matters in the hands of someone you trust and choose personally. The main difference between the two is that general powers of attorney become invalid once you become mentally incapable while enduring powers of attorney continue when you become mentally incapable and are effective until your death.
By having both a Power of Attorney and Representation Agreement, you can be reassured that, should anything happen to your ability to make important decisions, people you trust will be able to make those choices for you.
Who Should I Appoint in my Representation Agreement?
The person or people you appoint will be able to make vital decisions about matters like:
- Who would you like to make your health care decisions for you if you aren’t able to yourself?
- If you are unable to be cared for at home, what type of facility would you prefer to live in?
- Are there any medical treatments you would consent/refuse upon recommendation by a healthcare provider?
- Are there any medical treatments you would to choose to withdraw?
Because of the nature of these decisions, many people choose a spouse, partner, family member or trusted friend to be their representative. There are a few restrictions in place to prevent paid caregivers or healthcare facility employees from being named in the agreement.