Being an attorney is a responsible and serious job.  This information will help you understand an attorney’s legal responsibilities. 

A power of attorney is a legal document that lets a capable adult give power to another adult to look after their financial and legal affairs. 

The person who gives an attorney power to make decisions is called the donor.
The person receiving the power to act is called the attorney, even if they are not a lawyer.

A power of attorney only applies while the donor is alive. On death, a person’s will gives the power to an executor to look after the estate of the person who died.

This legal information talks about being an attorney under an enduring power of attorney. An enduring power of attorney is one that continues, or ‘endures’, after the document is signed, whether or not the donor loses capacity. The donor must have the legal capacity at the time they sign the document.  The power of attorney document must clearly say that the attorney’s authority continues after the donor lacks capacity.  For example, it may say something like the following


This enduring power of attorney becomes effective immediately and may be exercised during any period of legal incapacity I may suffer. It is an enduring power of attorney within the meaning of the Powers of Attorney Act.

A power of attorney does not usually cover decisions about personal care or health care. Another legal document called a personal directive covers personal care decisions such as medical treatment, where the maker of the personal directive will live, or who visits them. A personal directive allows a capable adult to  name someone (a delegate) to help make these kinds of decisions for them, and to give instructions to the delegate. You can learn more about a personal directive at www.legalinfo.org/wills-and-estates-law/health-care.

Getting more information or legal advice
If you need legal advice or to talk to a lawyer about an attorney’s role and responsibilities, it is a good idea to speak with a lawyer who focuses their work on estate planning, including powers of attorney, and if possible a lawyer who has a Trust and Estate Practitioner or “TEP” designation.  Here is information about ways to find a lawyer.   

Last reviewed: September 2021
Reviewed for legal accuracy by: Lawyers Erin O'Brien-Edmonds QC TEP and Catherine Watson Coles QC TEP

Thank you to Justice Canada for funding to support development of this legal information content.  Thank you to other members of the Public Legal Education Association of Canada for permission to adapt member content.