POA, Advanced Directives, Living Wills –
Legal Issues for Seniors to Consider
The personal legal factors that we need to manage become ever more important as we age.
Legalities are incredibly important in the process of organizing how your things are left behind, the amount and form of care you receive, and the manner in which decisions are made on your behalf when you become unable to make them yourself. Sorting out matters such as living wills, powers of attorney, and instructions for life sustaining treatments, is a significant and essential reality that accompanies aging.
The following is a concise introduction to some of the legal considerations that seniors should be aware of. For further information on these considerations, or to learn more about the laws specific to your province, please consult your lawyer.
Advanced Health Care Directives (Living Wills)
The Advance Directive is a critical document created to determine and direct the forms of medical intervention and long-term care that are to be utilized and accessed on behalf of an individual in the event that they become unable to make these important decisions on their own. Advance Directives come in two forms: Living Will and Power of Attorney. A Living Will provides instructions concerning the health care arrangements and treatments to be provided should the patient become incapacitated. A Power of Attorney for health care assigns the role of decision maker to a particular individual who then becomes responsible for speaking on behalf of the ill or aged person. Both of these forms of Advance Directives are incredibly important, and should be considered and applied. Seniors should also make copies of these documents available to their family members, doctors, and other trusted individuals, in order to make sure that the instructions they dictate are followed exactly as they desire.
Wills and Trusts
Wills are the most common legal documents used by aging citizens. They designate who will receive an individual’s personal possessions upon their passing. The existence of these documents not only saves time and money, while minimizing conflict between family members, but also prevents assets from being distributed according to applicable law. Both spouses should possess a will, and should keep it up to date in order to ensure that it reflects any changes that may occur to the estate. Trusts also exist as a commonly used option, helping to care for any dependent family members or assist in estate and tax planning after the trust holder passes away. Multiple types of Trusts exists: such as Living Trusts, which can avoid probate (in which a court makes decisions regarding settlement and tax value of an estate).
Power of Attorney (POA)
Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that bequeaths a trusted individual with the right to act on your behalf. The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee has a Power of Attorney Kit to help you through the process of appointing a person of your choosing to make decisions on your behalf in the event that you become unable to do so for yourself. Legal authority is required for matters regarding financial decisions, and can be assigned by naming someone in a continuing Power of Attorney for property. Choosing someone to act as Power of Attorney for personal care bestows that individual with the authority to make decisions regarding matters such as living arrangements and dietary choices. Should no Power of Attorney be appointed prior to an individual becoming incapacitated, the court is able to assign a power after the fact.
Gathering Important Information
Seniors should ensure that these important legal documents remain both safe and accessible so that they are readily available when required. This will help to ensure that the information and designations dictated within these documents are easily obtainable by loved-ones in the event of a crisis.
It is recommended that the following information be organized and accessible:
- Birth certificate
- Social Insurance Number
- Life insurance information, including policy number
- Names and addresses of family physician and medical specialists, as well as information concerning any hospital admissions, the dates of office visits, and other medical history
- Special arrangements made for health care, including advance directives
- Funeral prearrangements
- Trust documents
- Sources of income and assets
- Bank statements and safe deposit box locations
- Mortgage papers
- Investment records
- Negotiable securities
- Credit card information
- Most recent income tax return
- Loan papers
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