Representation Agreements:  Why They Matter For Those You Love

Representation agreements are a lot more encompassing than simple powers of attorney. Most people know, or at least they have a general idea, what a power of attorney is. It is a document that allows someone else to make certain decisions for you in the event you are unable to. But does a power of attorney cover medical decisions? The answer is no. 

The only way to grant someone else the power to make medical and care decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so yourself is through a representation agreement. It is a legal document that allows adults in British Columbia to authorize another person to make medical and care decisions on your behalf.

Why Is It Important to Have a Representation Agreement?

For people who are elderly or who have an illness or disability, having such an agreement is important because it allows certain people, authorized people, to make care decisions on their behalf. This power can become especially crucial where, for example, an elderly person is having trouble making those kinds of decisions for him or herself due to dementia.

But in reality everyone should have one, even if you are healthy, young and well. Anyone can end up in a car accident or have a sudden onset of illness that incapacitates them. In these instances most of us have someone we would want to make health care and medical decisions for us. Such an agreement not only identifies that person but also authorizes them to act if you are unable to express that intention yourself.

It also allows you the opportunity to specify what kind of medical interventions you would want in the event of a health emergency. Many people have strong feelings about the measures they would want to have taken to preserve their life. Specifying these wishes removes the guess work for your loved ones if you cannot let them know what kind of medical procedures you would want performed or whether extraordinary measures should be taken to preserve your life in the event of a catastrophic accident. Having these instructions can make that job easier for your loved ones and prevent arguments between family members who may want different actions taken.

Are There Different Types?

The answer to this question is yes. They are made pursuant to the Representation Act of British Columbia

Such agreements can be made pursuant to either section 7 or section 9 of the Act. Section 9 agreements assign a broader range of decision-making powers than section 7 agreements. It's important to speak with a lawyer about what powers you want to assign and how best to address them, either in the kind of agreement we have just been talking about, a power of attorney document, or a will.

The Bottom Line:

The good news is that it is easy to have one. Having such an agreement is like having a legal will, or power of attorney. It is important and makes life easier for your loved ones. Together these three documents are important tools for estate planning.

By Val Hemminger, lawyer