Seniors are highly recommended to have all their legal affairs in order…just in case!
It is critical for aging seniors to be aware of a number of legal matters that may affect how they leave things behind, the level of care they receive, and how decisions are made once they are unable to do so for themselves. Living wills, powers of attorney, and instructions pertaining to life sustaining treatments are all legal matters that the majority of the aging population must deal with.
This information is meant as a brief introduction of things seniors should think about. For more complete information on the subjects covered – and to find out about laws specific to your province – talk with your lawyer.
Advanced Health Care Directives (Living Wills)
This crucial document specifies the types of medical intervention and long term care choices that should be made on a person’s behalf in the circumstance that they are unable to make the decisions themselves.
There are two forms of advance directives: a living will, and the power of attorney.
A Living Will provides specific instructions on the health care treatment that should be provided after a person becomes incapable of making their own decisions. A Power of Attorney for health care (there is also a Power of Attorney for Finance), appoints a person to make decisions on the individual’s behalf when the individual is incapacitated.
We recommend that both forms of advance directives are established. These directives should be discussed with loved ones, and copies should be given to family members, doctors, and other trusted individuals, so that all may follow the instructions of the documents should that time come.
Wills and Trusts
Wills specify who receives an individual’s personal possessions when they pass away. The obtainment of a will can prevent conflict among family members, and save time and money in legal fees. Not having a will could mean your assets are distributed according to applicable law, whatever it may be. It is recommended that both spouses have a will, and update it as their estate changes.
There are several types of trusts, including living trusts, which help in the care of a dependent family member, or assist in estate and tax planning.
Power of Attorney
The legal right of someone else to act on your behalf is called Power of Attorney.
The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee has a Power of Attorney Kit that will help you appoint the person you want to make decisions for you when you are no longer able to do so for yourself. Legal authority is also needed for any financial decisions to be made on your behalf. This authority can be given by naming someone the power of attorney for property.
For personal care decisions such as where you live or what you eat, you can give legal authority by naming someone in a power of attorney for personal care. If no Power of Attorney is appointed, a court can appoint a power of attorney after the individual becomes incapacitated.
Gathering Important Information
Because crisis can strike at any moment, seniors should have their important documents organized at all times. Documents such as medical, financial, and other personal information should be easily accessible in case of a medical emergency.
The following is a list of information that is recommended to have organized for the convenience of your loved ones:
- Birth certificate
- Social Insurance Number
- Life insurance information, including policy number
- Names and addresses of family physician and medical specialists as well as information on hospital admissions and 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