Legal Considerations for Seniors
The personal legal matters that we need to consider become increasingly important as we age.
Legalities play an important role in organising how you leave things behind, the amount and type of care you receive, and how decisions are made on your behalf when you are unable to make them yourself. Dealing with matters such as living wills, powers of attorney, and instructions for life sustaining treatments, is an important and necessary reality that comes with aging.
The following is a brief introduction to some of the legal considerations that seniors should be aware of. For further information on these matters, 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 crucial document created to dictate and provide direction regarding the forms of medical intervention and long-term care decisions that are to be made on behalf of an individual in the event that they become unable to make these important decisions themselves. Advance Directives come in two forms: Living Will and Power of Attorney. A Living Will provides instructions concerning the health care arrangements and treatments that should be provided should the patient be incapacitated. A Power of Attorney for health care assigns an individual to take on the role of decision maker on the individual’s behalf when they are unable to speak for themselves. Both of these forms of Advance Directives are hugely important, and should be explored and utilized. Seniors should also provide copies of these documents to their family members, doctors, and other trusted individuals, to ensure that the instructions they dictate are followed exactly.
Wills and Trusts
Wills are the most common legal documents used by aging citizens. They indicate who will receive an individual’s personal possessions upon their passing. The presence of these documents not only saves time and money, and minimizes conflict between family members, but also prevents your assets from being distributed according to applicable law. Both spouses should possess a will, and should keep it updated to ensure it reflects any changes that may occur to the estate. Trusts also exist as a common option, helping to care for any dependent family members or assist in in estate and tax planning after the trust holder passes away. Several 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 bestows a trusted individual or family member with the right to act on your behalf. The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee has a Power of Attorney Kit to assist you through the process of appointing a person of your choosing to make decisions on your behalf should 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 provides 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 they these important legal documents remain both secure and accessible so that they are available when required. This will help to ensure that the information and designations that these documents describe 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