Do I need a power of attorney for someone to manage my assets if I am unable?
In most cases, people should have a power of attorney as part of their estate plan. A power of attorney for Property allows you to appoint someone to act on your behalf with regards to your assets in the event that you are unable. There are two kinds: Continuing and Non-Continuing.
Non-Continuing Power of Attorney
A Non-Continuing power of attorney allows your Lawyer, who you have appointed, to manage your assets but it ceases to have effect in the event that you become mentally incapacitated and unable to manage your own affairs. These are generally used for specific purposes where an individual will be unavailable for a relatively short period of time. For instance, someone embarking on an extended holiday may appoint someone as their Lawyer to deal with banking and investing while they are away.
Continuing Power of Attorney
For most people, a Continuing power of attorney is appropriate for their estate plan. This allows someone to manage your assets and their power continues in the event of incapacity. A person (or persons) of your choosing will be able to act on your behalf and make decisions regarding your affairs in your best interests. This may involve small matters such as the paying of monthly utility bills or large matters, such as selling your home should it no longer meet your needs.
If you do not have a power of attorney, your family members will be subject to considerable delay and expense in getting someone appointed to act on your behalf; the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee will be involved. Ultimately the person appointed may not be the person you would have chosen.
When preparing a power of attorney for Property, it is important to consider who to appoint and what type of powers they should have. The document must be executed in accordance with the legal requirements so it takes effect. These matters can be discussed with a Lawyer who can consider your specific needs, ensuring your power of attorney works with your estate plan.
Your last will does not have to be drafted or signed by a Lawyer. However, a will is a legal document that will determine who will have control of your estate and how it is going to be distributed. There are certain legal requirements that have to be met for the will to be valid. As such it is very important that your will is drafted, signed and witnessed properly.
How can a Lawyer help?
A Lawyer will ask you right questions to help you determine how to distribute your estate while taking into consideration various contingencies and scenarios that might be in place at the time of your passing. She will discuss with you legal clauses that you might want to include in your will, such as a beneficiary designation for your RRSP and insurance policies, expressing your wishes in regards to the custody of your minor children or confirming compensation for the executor. Your Lawyer will also talk to you about the powers that you want to give to your executor in addition to the powers he would have under current legal framework or limits that you want put on such powers. She will properly draft your will and will try to help you understand all the legal clauses and legalities contained in a will. Your Lawyer will also make sure that your new will revokes all your previous wills or other testamentary documents. Most importantly, your Lawyer will also make sure that your will is properly signed and witnessed.
Your last will is an important legal document and you should retain a professional to help you with its preparation and execution. Seeking and using such help will give you peace of mind knowing that your affairs are in order and make sure that your will reflects all your wishes.
“I recently learned that my elderly Aunt is a victim of Fraud. The police have advised me that some victims of the fraud are considering a lawsuit and that someone may wish to speak to a Lawyer on my Aunt’s behalf. My Aunt suffers from dementia and I hold power of attorney. Can my Aunt participate in a lawsuit?"
Special rules apply to lawsuits involving people, like your aunt, who suffer from a mental illness and therefore lack capacity at law.
Generally, children under the age of 18 and people who suffer from mental illness, including those who suffer from dementia, must be represented by a litigation guardian within legal proceedings. There are also special rules which apply to how limitation periods apply to persons who lack capacity at law.
Litigation Guardians assume responsibility for litigation on behalf of a litigant who lacks capacity. Litigation Guardians serve an important role and are saddled with significant responsibilities. They assume the responsibilities of retaining and instructing Lawyers on behalf of the incapable litigant, and litigation guardians assume personal responsibility for any costs liability incurred as a result of a lawsuit.
However, the litigation guardian plays an essential role in ensuring access to justice for some of society’s most vulnerable people. Without people agreeing to stand as Litigation Guardian people who suffer losses could be left without recourse to the courts.
Generally a Lawyer works very closely with a litigation guardian to ensure that risks are properly understood. Lawyers also put in place measures to ensure the risk of personal exposure to the guardian is minimized.
If you are asked to stand as a litigation guardian you should consult with a Lawyer before deciding whether or not to stand.
My elderly mother was diagnosed with dementia a few months ago. She is rapidly deteriorating. She does not have signed powers of attorney documents. I have three other siblings. We need to sell her house and get access to her finances to pay her bills. What do we have to do?
Lawyer under power of attorney
Depending on your mother’s current mental capacity she might still be able to appoint an Lawyer under power of attorney for property or personal care. In order to determine whether you mother still has a mental capacity to execute power of attorney documents she will have to undergo a capacity assessment performed by a specially trained health care professional. If the capacity assessment finds that your mother has capacity to appoint an Lawyer under powers of attorney, she can visit a Lawyer to help her prepare and sign powers of attorney documents.
If your mother does not have the mental capacity to appoint an Lawyer, you and your siblings can apply to be appointed Guardians of Property for your mother. There are two ways this can be achieved: by applying to the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee or making an application to the Court. The less costly and simpler way is to apply to the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee. The process of applying and the application forms can be found on their website. In order to be able to apply to the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee, you and your siblings would have to agree on whom to appoint as Guardian. In the event you and your siblings cannot agree on the appointment, someone will have to apply to the Court to be appointed Guardian for your mother.