Representation agreements are designed to be used when you aren’t capable of making certain decisions for yourself. There are two types of representation agreements. Learn the differences between them, and which type of agreement is the right fit for you.
What you should know
A representation agreement is a legal document. It lets you choose someone to help you make certain decisions — or to make decisions for you — if you’re ever incapable of making those decisions yourself. The person you choose is called your representative.
Under the law in BC, there are two kinds of representation agreements:
standard representation agreements, often called section 7 representation agreements
enhanced representation agreements, often called section 9 representation agreements
These agreements differ in three ways:
the standard of legal capability you need to make the agreement
the kinds of decisions you can get help making
the extent of power you can give to your representative
Let's unpack the differences between the two types of agreements.
The law in BC says you’re capable of making an enhanced representation agreement if you can understand the nature and consequences of the proposed agreement. You must understand:
that you’re giving power to someone else to make decisions for you (or share decision-making with you if possible)
the kinds of decisions you’re asking your representative to make
the consequences of giving someone this power
For example, your enhanced representation agreement may allow your representative to refuse life-supporting treatment. You must understand that this might happen and that, consequently, you could die.
“We just adopted a baby girl. We can’t only think about ourselves now. I decided to prepare an enhanced representation agreement. I chose my partner Max to be my representative. I know it’s a big deal to hand that much power over to him. But I can’t think of a better person to make critical medical decisions if something ever happens to me.”
– Benjamin, Vancouver, BC
“I have a client, Marta, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She can still make simple choices like what to eat for lunch. But basic arithmetic confuses her. When her doctor explains medical procedures, she can’t understand. Marta is no longer capable of signing an enhanced representation agreement. But in my opinion, she can sign a standard representation agreement. She can choose someone she trusts to help her make decisions.”
– Oli, notary public, Surrey, BC
If you can’t legally make an enhanced representation agreement, you might still be able to make a standard representation agreement.
The law says an adult can make a standard representation agreement even if they’re not capable of any of these things:
Managing their own health care, personal care or legal matters.
Handling routine financial affairs.
Making a contract. A contract is a legal agreement. To make one, you need to understand what you’re agreeing to and what effect it will have on you. You must understand the significance and consequences of what you’re signing.
All relevant factors need to be considered. For example, whether the adult:
communicates that they want their representative to help them make decisions
demonstrates choices and preferences
expresses feelings of approval or disapproval of others
is aware that the representative may make choices that affect them
has a relationship of trust with their representative
Capability is nuanced
Capability shouldn’t be based solely on a diagnosis or IQ. And the law says it cannot be based on the way someone communicates.
The law sorts decisions covered by representation agreements into four categories:
Health care entails anything done for a therapeutic, preventive, palliative, diagnostic or cosmetic purpose. Big and small health care decisions are covered. Minor health care includes routine tests, dental and eye work, and medication. Major health care could include major surgery, chemotherapy, dialysis, complex diagnostic tests, or risky treatments.
Personal care includes diet, dress, social activities, exercise, spiritual matters, as well as where you live and work, and who you spend time with.
Financial affairs include paying bills, dealing with bank accounts and income, applying for benefits, paying taxes, paying off loans, and applying for insurance.
Legal matters include dealing with legal issues, getting legal advice and services, instructing a lawyer, commencing any legal proceedings on the adult’s behalf (except divorce proceedings).
A key difference between the types of representation agreement
Standard representation agreements can cover all four types of decisions. Enhanced representation agreements can only cover health care and personal care decisions — but in those areas, they can go further, including decisions about refusing life-supporting treatment.
Under a standard representation agreement, you can give someone power to make decisions in all four areas: health care, personal care, financial affairs, and legal matters (but there are restrictions on what they can do within each area). This is called giving your representative standard powers. For example:
A representative can help with the routine management of financial affairs. This includes everyday tasks like paying bills and managing bank accounts. The law in BC lists a range of other tasks that are considered routine. But some decisions such as selling or buying a home or taking out a loan are not covered.
The law excludes certain powers in the personal care and health care categories.
Under an enhanced representation agreement, you can give someone enhanced powers to make decisions. This includes everything that’s covered under the standard powers, plus additional authority. But decision-making only extends to two of the four areas: health care and personal care. For example:
Under health care, your representative can refuse consent to life-supporting treatment, if you're incapable of making the decision yourself. Or they can consent to specific health care treatments, even if you object to the treatment at the time it's needed, as long as you've spelled this out in your agreement.
Under personal care, your representative can consent to your being physically restrained, managed or moved (so you can receive care), even if you object at the time it's needed. You need to be incapable of making the decision for yourself, in order for this to apply.
Finding the right type of agreement for you
Someone who needs help now
Standard representation agreements are designed for adults who need help now, because they can’t make decisions independently. They may be appropriate for an adult:
with an intellectual disability
who suffered from a traumatic brain injury
experiencing age-related mental decline
whose cognitive function is otherwise impaired due to illness or accident
Standard representation agreements are often used as a last resort by those who are no longer capable of making an enhanced representation agreement.
“My sister suffered a brain injury when her former partner hit her. Her doctors don’t think she’s capable of giving consent to certain medical treatment. So she made a standard representation agreement, appointing me as her representative. With it, I’m able to help keep her finances on track. I can pursue criminal charges against her former partner. I can advocate for the health care that she needs.”
– Randy, Kamloops, BC
Someone who prefers the standard powers
You can make a standard representation agreement even while you’re capable of making decisions independently.
“I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of someone refusing life-supporting care for me. Nor do I like the idea of being restrained against my will (even if I would have wanted the health care treatment if I was capable). So I signed a standard representation agreement, instead of an enhanced one.”
– Isobel, West Vancouver, BC
“My financial affairs are simple. I receive a pension, and most of my expenses come straight out of my bank account. This includes room and board at a nursing home. I don’t own real estate. I want someone to help me with my financial affairs in the future. But I can do this with a standard representation agreement.”
– Kelly, Parksville, BC
If you are legally capable and your financial affairs are simple, you have other options for planning too. For example, you can choose to set up a pension trusteeship. We explain that option and others in our coverage of financial and legal planning tools.
Preparing a standard representation agreement
We walk you through the steps to prepare a standard representation agreement. Our coverage digs into what to consider in preparing the agreement, where you can find template forms, and where to get help.
An enhanced representation agreement is appropriate for most legally capable adults who want to have a say in their future health care and personal care. The agreement can be tailored to meet your specific needs.