Nfld. & Labrador

'It all happened so suddenly': Why power of attorney is important

A woman from Witless Bay is speaking out about the importance of having a power of attorney, after learning she had no authority over her elderly father's finances when he became ill.

Lorna Yard learned from a neighbour that her sick father's power had been disconnected

Lorna Yard says she ran into roadblocks when her dad (pictured above) got sick and could no longer look after his own finances. A power of attorney would have made things easier. (Lorna Yard/Submitted)

A woman from Witless Bay is speaking out about the importance of having a power of attorney, after learning she had no authority over her elderly father's finances when he became ill a few years ago.

Lorna Yard says her father's health unexpectedly declined after the death of his second wife in 2012.

According to Yard, simply signing a document could have prevented many headaches for her family down the road.

"He ended up being in hospital for six months and he didn't have the ability to make decisions. Like, you couldn't talk to him rationally," she told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

It all happened so suddenly … it was the kind of thing I never thought of.- Lorna Yard

It wasn't until Yard ran into one of her father's neighbours that she learned the power to his home had been shut off while he was in hospital.

"I almost died because my dad was always the type [that] he couldn't wait to get the light bill paid. He was never behind on a bill in his life," she said.

She realized then that she had to take over management of her father's finances, but Yard ran into roadblocks when companies learned she wasn't named on any of her dad's statements.

"When I called and tried to cancel the cable, I couldn't even do that because I wasn't authorized on any of his accounts," she said.

Aging parents? Make a plan

Her father's bank similarly said Yard wasn't permitted to access his account or pay any of his bills.

"My dad was always a very smart man who took care of his own affairs, and it all happened so suddenly … it was the kind of thing I never thought of," she said.

Lorna Yard says before her father's health began to decline, he always took care of his own finances. (Submitted)

Yard said it took two years to gain her father's power of attorney, and she learned that while utility companies don't require extensive paperwork, most banks require that a lawyer preside over the process.

"It's certainly something for people to think about, especially with aging parents."

Yard said there's a misconception that power of attorney means someone can swoop in and take control over another person's affairs — but that's not the case.

It's just a safeguard, Yard said, that can be used in the event that a family member becomes incapacitated.

She wants people to learn from her mistake, and not wait until a family member is in poor health to set up a power of attorney.

With files from the St. John's Morning Show

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