A few years ago, at my mother’s instigation, my parents drafted their wills (which were more or less identical, IIRC leaving each other as the first-in-line sole beneficiary and me as the second-in-line). On top of this, they signed one or both of:
- a document called a “Power of Attorney for Healthcare” (or similar)
- a “Power of Attorney for Property”
(I don’t remember if they signed both of these or just considered them but signed only one). In essence, the first document was meant to authorize each parent and myself to make health care decisions for the other parent in the event that this was necessary. The latter would have done the same for their property. You would think that the primary motivation for signing such a document would be to have your family honor your wishes in case of your becoming incompetent to exercise them yourself; however, as I understood, my mother’s primary motivation for signing these powers of attorney/getting my father to do the same was that she has a pathological fear of doctors and the medical system and doesn’t want the government to make medical choices for her. Thus, authorizing her family to make those choices would presumably empower them to exercise her medical wishes on her behalf rather than a doctor or some government official making those decisions for her.
I was given these documents to examine and there was one thing that struck me: I hope I didn’t misread them or not read them carefully, but I couldn’t find a clause that said that the signer was conferring this control over their healthcare decisions to their family member only in the event that the signer was incapable of making those decisions him/herself. Again, perhaps there’s something I misread, but I got the impression that the P of A gave the signer’s family members decision-making powers over their health/property even if the signer had capacity (was mentally competent) to make those decisions for themselves! Did I misread/misunderstand/misinterpret something, or is it normal to sign such P of As without adding a clause specifically stipulating that the decision-making power is only granted in cases where the signer is incompetent to make those decisions independently?
What’s more, I recall my mother indicating that I too should give my parents P of A for my heathcare for the same reasons. This is something that I would not have done under any circumstances as 1) I wouldn’t want to give my mother any additional power over me - she’s exercised far too much of it during my life and 2) I think she has made some extremely poor healthcare decisions for herself (basically allowing a serious injury to go untreated due to fear of doctors, causing her to become permanently bedridden) and in fact consider some doctor or government official to be more competent to make decisions, if necessary, about my health than she would be! However, she never re-visited the issue, so the possibility of my signing a P of A for healthcare was dropped. Also, I have since left Canada for good, so it’s a question whether my parents haven’t even re-written the ones they did sign to include only each other as having decision-making capacity since then.
At the time, I mentioned to my father that giving such sweeping powers to a family member over your person or property without a clause to the effect that it only applied in cases of mental incapacity seemed crazy; his reply was that it was something that was done in families where trust existed among its members - and I consider my family not to be such a family. Plus, why would you trust anyone 100% for ever and ever and sign over your very competence to them? Or could I have missed something in - or about the nature of - the documents under discussion?
Just to make the discussion complete - the legal jurisdiction in my personal story is the Province of Ontario. (And my basic question here lies in the text bolded above).