Posts Tagged "power of attorney"

The Vulture Generation

Posted by on Mar 1, 2012 in Power of Attorney, Powers of Attorney | 0 comments

Originally published December 2010, Reader’s Digest magazine.  Copyright (c) 2010 by Reader’s Magazines Canada Limited. Further reproduction or distribution strictly prohibited. Reprinted with permission. The elderly and infirm routinely delegate control of their finances to family members but more and more Canadians are abusing that power. Can our aging population trust its own children? BY RISHA GOTLIEB On June 24, 2007, Tony Budkowski got an unexpected call from his mother’s nursing home in Oshawa. The home’s regular contact was Tony’s sister, Heather, but according to the administrator, Heather had left the country. “Instantly, I realized something was amiss,” says Budkowski. “Why didn’t my sister want me to know she’d be away and unavailable to help our mother?” He also learned the nursing-home fees had gone unpaid for eight months. “I knew my mother had enough to cover her bills, and my sister, who had been given power of attorney to pay these bills, had full access to Mom’s bank accounts.”  Budkowski started to investigate, but was stymied when he tried to obtain his mother’s banking records. He turned to the Durham Regional Police for assistance. Luckily, his file ended up in the hands of Sgt. John Keating, who Budkowski says is “very passionate” about protecting the vulnerable and the elderly. With Keating’s help, he eventually got the bank to hand over the records. “My sister had made off with our mother’s life savings, leaving her with $270.” Keating arrested the sister, and on June 10, 2008, she was sentenced to two years house arrest and three years probation, and was ordered to repay $92,000. This, says Keating, is one of the harshest convictions ever seen in Ontario’s Durham Region for abuse involving power of attorney (POA). Budkowski’s mother had Alzheimer’s. Her death earlier this year, at the age of 95, left unanswered questions about her POA document. “Did my mother know what she was signing?” asks Budkowski. “Or was it even her hand that signed it? I have my suspicions.” POA abuse stories are surfacing in every community across Canada. The Canadian government estimates that as many as ten percent of seniors are affected. “And financial abuse involving powers of attorney is the most rampant,” says Laura Watts, national director of the Canadian Centre for Elder Law in Vancouver. “Abuses are grossly under-reported. Victims are reluctant to come forward if the exploiter is a family member, due to feelings of shame, fear of exposure and even fear of being denied access to grandkids.” The situation—which Watts describes as “a national crisis”—is forcing legislators, the courts and police to re-evaluate their responses to reports of POA misuse. “I’ve heard over and over from seniors who have taken their complaints to police, only to be told this is a civil matter,” says Brian Trainor, a retired Saskatoon police officer and one of the first in Canada to investigate POA abuse cases. Keating has heard similar complaints, and maintains that a change is necessary. “The whole system needs to be revamped,” he says. “We need to start recognizing theft by POA for what it really is: a crime.” A power of attorney is a document that legally appoints  one individual (the “attorney”) to act on another’s behalf. Each province has its own POA legislation and terminology, but generally speaking, there are two types of POAs: those that grant authority to manage assets and those that cover personal care. For a POA that grants authority to manage assets, you can decide whether you want it to be continuing or noncontinuing. A continuing POA will stay in effect even if you become mentally incapable,...

Read More

Every Adult Needs These Two Legal Documents

Posted by on Sep 8, 2010 in Planning, Power of Attorney, Powers of Attorney | 0 comments

This is a true story of a family that did not have legal documents and a plan in place before a sudden health crisis:     Delia (not her real name), a 90-year old widow, has lived alone in her home for many years. Friends and family admire her independence.  A private person, Delia proudly manages her own affairs. She believes she will continue on this way until “something happens to me”.  Her children have asked her to talk to her lawyer about Power of Attorney and an Advance Health Care Directive but she dismisses their advice. Then, Delia suffers a serious stroke and is admitted to hospital. The doctors discuss her competency and decide that she lacks the capacity to make decisions regarding her health and property. The family is told that Delia needs the professional care provided in a long-term care home.   At the long-term care centre, the family is asked to make decisions regarding level of care. Do they want a “Do Not Resuscitate” order if their mother has serious complications or develops a life-threatening illness? The family is not sure: one daughter says, “Mom would want everything done because she has always faced life head on”. But another sibling argues that “Mom would never want to continue living without her independence.”  Delia’s advance health care directive would have contained her wishes in writing. To pay the care home fees and her other debts, the family realizes that Mom’s home must be sold.  Their realtor informs them that they do not have the legal right to sell the home. Delia needs to sign the agreement – but cannot do so.       Family members also notice that other care centre residents have additional support from private companions and personal care aides. They decide that enhanced services would be a good idea for Mom, too. They go to the bank, where they are informed that, without a power of attorney, they cannot have access to Delia’s accounts. They must now apply for guardianship. They are also advised to contact a lawyer specializing in Elder Law.       For the reasons outlined above, all adults – but especially seniors – need to have a Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directive. No one wants to imagine circumstances where they might have to give up control over financial and care decisions. But serious illness or accidents can happen to anyone at any time. Preparing these two documents can spare your loved ones anguish and ensure that your wishes are respected.   For more insight and comprehensive Canadian resources,  consult the ElderWise e-guide,  Decide For Yourself: Why You Must Write Your POA and Advance Directive, available in our online store. © ElderWise, 2010. Vol. 6, No. 7 You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at http://elderwise.memwebs.com/ and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter....

Read More

Definitions for POA and Health Care Directives

Posted by on Sep 8, 2010 in Planning, Power of Attorney, Powers of Attorney | 0 comments

There are two types of “power of attorney”: one for finances and one for decisions about health and personal care. Both documents are drawn up by a person with “capacity”, i.e. the ability to make reasoned decisions, who wants to decide on his or her wishes for future medical care and treatment and personal care – in the event they are not able to give informed consent. This document is also known as a living will or health care directive may, and may contain or include: Appointment of a “proxy” who will assume responsibility for ensuring the person’s wishes are respected Health and personal care wishes that must be followed by health care providers, where the wishes are reasonable, possible, and legal. The first type is called a proxy directive. All provinces, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories allow proxy directives.The second type is called an instructional directive.  Several provinces allow this type of directive, as well as the proxy directive. Why have a directive? Manitoba Health provides this general suggestion for writing a health care directive, or “living will.” “Due to accident or illness, you may become unable to say or show what treatment you would like, and under what conditions. If you have signed a directive, those close to you and the health care professionals treating you are relieved of the burden of guessing what your wishes might be.”  Each province has specific legislation regarding health care directives. The ElderWise Guide, “Decide For Yourself”, provides web links to the specific details for each Canadian province and territory. You must comply with the legislation in your parent’s province if the directive is being prepared for them. Here is a scenario that is all too common for families who do not have advance care planning in place (names changed to protect privacy):  Clarence was 87 years old and had not named anyone to speak on his behalf. When his niece raised the topic, he said: “You’ll be there for me – and I know you will do the right thing.” But when Clarence had a stroke and was temporarily in a coma, his niece was unable to legally speak on his behalf because she had not been specifically named as Clarence’s personal representative.  Research the information that applies to your province (“Decide for Yourself” includes web resources for all provinces and territories). Discuss medical treatments, such as a “Do Not Resuscitate” order, with your doctor. Decide who will speak on your behalf AND get their consent. Write the directive yourself – or get help from a lawyer. Provide copies of the directive to your family, your doctor, and the person(s) named in the directive. Get full details about the contents of “Decide for Yourself”     Vol. 5, No. 8 © ElderWise Publishing 2009. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at http://elderwise.memwebs.com/ and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter.   ...

Read More

How to Choose Your Power of Attorney

Posted by on Sep 8, 2010 in Planning, Power of Attorney, Powers of Attorney | 0 comments

So you’re ready to write your advance health care directive for health (sometimes known as your “living will”) or to designate your power of attorney, but both these documents involve appointing an “agent” or “personal representative”. How do you choose?  Most people will think first of other family members; e.g., spouse, siblings, adult sons or daughters. For many families, choosing from among the relatives will make the most sense. But what if your relatives are not willing?  Or you are concerned that they might be not able to take on the responsibilities?  What if the person you want to name is not very well, physically or emotionally?  If you have more than one child, how do you include each without offending anyone? What if they don’t get along with each other? Here are some factors to consider when choosing your representative. Ask yourself:  which of my friends or relatives knows me the best? Would they willingly act on my behalf? Will they know what I would want? Do they hold some of the same values as I do? Making decisions about your health care and managing your financial matters are two distinct responsibilities. They can call for different skills and roles.To act as your agent for health care decisions might be emotionally demanding. This person may have to decide whether to give permission for a treatment, or to participate in choosing where you will live. They will also have to collaborate with health care providers and probably with other family members. For managing your finances, you may want to choose someone who has business or financial experience…or someone who is highly organized and detail-oriented. Once you identify the roles and challenges of a representative, you could consider asking more than one person to accept the responsibility. For example, you might ask your son and your brother to work together because you know that they would make a good team. If you know that family members will not be able to fulfill these roles without considerable conflict, then consider asking a trusted professional, such as those listed below, to act for you:a. Accountant b. Financial advisor c. Estate planner d. Lawyer e. Trust company Finally, don’t just write it and forget it.  Just as you would with your will, you should update these documents whenever your circumstances – and those of your agent or representative – change. Decide for Yourself is your complete ElderWise e-guide to preparing your power of attorney and personal health directive in Canada. For more information and to purchase this e-guide, with specific information on each province and territory, click here. Vol. 5, No. 5 © ElderWise Publishing 2009-2010. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise , Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at http://elderwise.memwebs.com/ and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter....

Read More

Help Aging Parents Relocate

Posted by on Sep 8, 2010 in Housing Options, Power of Attorney | 0 comments

Selling and leaving a family home of many years is among the most difficult decisions that face families when an aging parent must move. Often the move is the most tangible symbol of another loss – of health or mobility, or loss of a loved one. It’s hard to prepare for the emotional upheaval of moving an aging parent to a retirement residence or care facility. It’s also difficult to dispose of the family home and contents while grieving the loss of a parent. Senior moves and house clearings may involve family members, executors or persons exercising powers of attorney. The decision to move may be a choice, or it may be a necessity. Families in this situation can turn to the special services provided by senior move managers. These businesses may specialize in working with the elderly, as well as providing house clearing and estate services.  “We’re definitely dealing with a grieving process,” says Dawn Rennie, President of Transitions Inc., which operates throughout Western Canada. “Often, people haven’t anticipated the emotions that come with a loss or with moving on after change.” Dealing with the family home adds another burden at a difficult time. Belongings need to be divided between family and friends. Valuables need to be appraised, sometimes disposed of. After that, it’s packing, supervising the move and preparing the house for sale. All these tasks are time-consuming and can involve complex decisions. The fact that many families are scattered geographically complicates things further. Others simply don’t have the time or physical ability to do the job. Seniors may have no family close by. One elderly spouse may be managing a move for the other. All face physical and emotional challenges when moving house.  “One of the hardest things can be dealing with the paperwork,” says Rennie. “Some clients feel overwhelmed because the other spouse always looked after it. They’re quite relieved when we tell them we’re used to dealing with computers and call centres for all the arrangements that need to be made!” Our aging population means seniors’ moving services are becoming in ever greater demand. For families at a distance, both the logistical help and local support are plusses.  An outside party may bring an objective view to the many decisions that must be made. They can be the extra pair(s) of hands that help with the preparation and coordination. Sometimes, the cost of family travel and taking time off work can be greater than the cost of hiring outside help. “When the move is finally completed, clients are often pleased and relieved to walk into a new place where they’re still surrounded by many of their favorite things,” Rennie explains. “That can make it easier to let go of the past and start anew.” Whether the move is by choice or by necessity, senior move services take on the planning, organizing, co-ordination and supervision. For more information on what’s involved, visit http://movewithtransitions.com/   Vol. 4, No. 13 © ElderWise Publishing 2008. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at http://elderwise.memwebs.com/ and subscribe to our FREE...

Read More