As we get older, the personal legal matters that we must consider become increasingly important!
These legalities may affect how you leave things behind, the level of care you receive, and how decisions are made when you are unable to make them yourself. Living wills, powers of attorney, and instructions for life sustaining treatments are all issues that the majority of the population will have to deal with as they age.
The following information is only a brief introduction of the legal considerations seniors should know about. For more information on the subjects covered – and to find out about the laws specific to your province – please consult your lawyer.
Advanced Health Care Directives (Living Wills)
The Advance Directive is a critical document, which provides specific instructions on the types of medical intervention and long-term care choices that will be made on a person’s behalf if they are unable to make the decisions themselves.
Advance directives come in two forms: a Living Will and the Power of Attorney. A Living Will provides specific instructions on the health care treatment that should be provided should the patient be incapacitated. A Power of Attorney for health care appoints a person to make decisions on the individual’s behalf when they are unable to speak for themselves.
Both forms of advance directives should be discussed and utilized. Seniors should also give copies of these documents to family members, doctors, and other trusted individuals, so that the instructions are followed precisely.
Wills and Trusts
Wills are the most common legal documents among aging citizens. They outline who receives a love one’s personal possessions when they pass away. These documents not only save time, money, and conflict between family members, but also eliminate the possibility that your assets be distributed according to applicable law. Both spouses should have a will, and update it regularly to reflect any changes that may occur to the estate.
Trusts are also a common option, which help care for a dependent family member or assist in estate and tax planning after the trust holder passes away. There are several types of trusts, including a living trust, which can avoid probate (in which a court decides the settlement and tax value of an estate).
Power of Attorney (POA)
Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives a family member or trusted individual the right to act on your behalf. 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 in the event that you are no longer able to speak for yourself. For financial decisions, legal authority is needed. You can give this authority by naming someone in a continuing 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 the 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 of all the factors associated with these legal documents and activities, aging seniors should have easy, secured access to their important documents, which may be needed when organizing these options. That way, in the event of a medical emergency or other crisis, the documents are readily available and convenient for your loved ones to access.
The following is a list of information that is recommended to have organized:
- 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
Contact us today to find out how the home care needs for you or your family may affect any of the above legal considerations. If you do not have a lawyer that can properly handle these requirements, we can introduce you to some trusted professionals on the North Shore.