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Marteny: Planning for loss of independence
A series of brochures have been prepared jointly by the federal/provincial/territorial cabinet ministers responsible for the Seniors Forum.
The forum is an intergovernmental body established to share information, discuss new and emerging issues related to seniors, and work collaboratively on key projects.
The initiative has created eight brochures covering the following topics: Financial planning, income and benefits from government programs, managing and protecting their assets, planning for possible loss of independence, planning for their future housing needs, having a will and making funeral plans, financial abuse, and fauds and scams.
These brochures are available at a Service Canada office, on the website www.seniors.gc.ca or by calling 1-800-622-6232.
Following is some information taken from the brochure on planning for possible loss of independence. This information is from 2010 and is for guidance only.
It is a senior’s responsibility to ensure that all of the information is current and accurate for their needs where they live.
For many seniors, the simplest thing is to make an enduring power of attorney, which in some places is called a continuing power of attorney.
This is a legal document in which a senior can name one or more people to be their “attorney” to manage their financial affairs.
This document can be used by their decision-maker to manage financial affairs even if a senior become incapable.
Making an enduring power of attorney is only a good plan if there is someone a senior can trust to look after their affairs if they can no longer look after them themselves.
This makes it clear who will be responsible for a senior’s financial affairs and it saves the difficulty and also the cost of making a family member or close friend go to court to get appointed as the decision-maker.
It also avoids the need to involve the Public Guardian and Trustee.
It is a good idea to talk to a lawyer about making an enduring power of attorney (except in the Yukon, where it is always necessary).
Because it is a very powerful legal document, it may be helpful to have a lawyer assist, to ensure a senior understands its risks and benefits.
In some situations, a senior can appoint a trust company to deal with some or all of their financial affairs.
If a senior becomes incapable of making decisions for themselves, there are laws in every province and territory that allow the court to appoint a decision-maker for them.
The court can also appoint a new decision-maker if the person the senior appointed dies or is unable to act.
There are laws in Canada that allow people close to a senior to make health care decisions for them if they can’t make them them-selves. In some provinces and territories, seniors can make a legal document naming someone to help them make health care decisions.
Sharen Marteny is a services consultant for seniors in Kelowna.