Substitute Decision-Making and Incapacity Planning

Last updated on September 4, 2019

There are certain instances in which you may choose to appoint a substitute decision-maker, such as a power of attorney for financial decisions. For example, you may give a trusted relative or friend the power of attorney to cash your Old Age Security cheques for you while you’re out of town.

More often, appointing a substitute decision-maker is about incapacity planning. It’s not pleasant to think that there may be a time when you’re unable to make certain decisions for yourself. However, it makes good sense to plan for such a time, just in case. That way, trusted family members or friends will be able to make legal, financial, or medical decisions for you according to your wishes.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that appoints another person, called an “attorney,” to deal with your business and property and to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf. A power of attorney can be very specific or very broad. A power of attorney ends if you become mentally incapable. If you want the power of attorney to continue even if you become mentally incapable of making financial decisions, you should make an enduring power of attorney.

Enduring Power of Attorney

An enduring power of attorney is a legal document that appoints another person to make financial and legal decisions for you. An enduring power of attorney will continue even if you become mentally incapable of making decisions. It is different from an ordinary (non-enduring) power of attorney, which ends if you become mentally incapable.

To create an enduring power of attorney, the document must be properly signed, and must state:

  • whether the attorney (the person appointed to make decisions) can act while you are capable or only while you are incapable, and
  • that the attorney’s authority continues despite your incapability.

Representation Agreements

With a representation agreement, you can choose someone you trust to be your legal representative, who may make decisions for you if you are incapable of doing so on your own. A representative may be given decision-making authority for your personal care and health care, and, in some cases, the routine management of your financial affairs, including legal matters. That person can be a family member, friend, or someone else.

For more information about power of attorney, enduring power of attorney, and representation agreements, please see:

For information and optional standard forms for representation agreements and enduring powers of attorney, see:

You do not have to register your representation agreement, but if you choose to, you can do so with:

Advance Care Planning (Making Future Health Care Decisions)

On September 1, 2011, B.C.’s personal planning laws changed. Now, capable adults can name a representative and/or make an advance directive, without visiting a lawyer or notary public, to ensure their future health care decisions are respected. All adults in B.C. are encouraged to do advance care planning to make their wishes and decisions known for their future health care treatment.

Advance care planning is the process of thinking about, and talking over with close family, friends, and your health care provider, your beliefs, values and wishes for future health care treatment in the event of incapability. When you write your wishes or instructions down, you are making an advance care plan.

For more information about advance care planning, including how to name a representative or make an advance directive, see:

If you have additional questions about advance care planning, call HealthLink BC, toll-free at 8-1-1 (dial 7-1-1 for deaf and hearing-impaired [TTY] assistance).

Adult Guardianship/Committeeship

A committee (guardian for an adult) makes decisions for another adult who is not mentally capable of making decisions about his or her own health care and personal affairs, and/or financial and legal affairs. If you become mentally incapable and have not already named someone to make decisions for you, the B.C. Supreme Court may appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf.

The Public Guardian and Trustee of B.C. may also be appointed as committee to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf, or may appoint another person to act as temporary substitute decision-maker for you.

For more information, see: