Preparing for the last years of your life is one of the biggest gifts you can give to those who love you.
While it may seem daunting, there are specific steps you can take that will help. Think of these in practical terms, as more of a checklist; once these are in place, you can have peace of mind that all is in order.
Local REALTOR® Gwen Price hosts her own video/podcast Sudbury Talks with Gwen Price. She believes people need to be forward-thinking when it comes to end of life and ensure that their wills and powers of attorney are in place.
Having a substitute decision-maker is absolutely essential.
Should a situation arise where you are suddenly not mentally capable of making your own decisions, due to an accident or an illness, a substitute decision-maker is the person who the medical professionals or the government will turn to. This is typically a family member, but it can also be “a person who has been appointed the guardian or attorney for personal care”.
There is a hierarchy in which substitute decision-makers are ranked. It starts with the health practitioner (or the staff of CCAC, now known as Home and Community Care Support Services, in the case of admission to long-term care) and goes down the list until a substitute who is available, capable and willing to make decisions on your behalf is found.
The order is:
- A guardian appointed by the court, if the court order authorizes the guardian to make health care decisions
- A person with a “power of attorney for personal care” authorizing them to make health care decisions
- A representative appointed by the Consent and Capacity Board (any person may apply to the board to be appointed as the substitute decision-maker)
- A spouse or partner
- A child or parent (custodial parent if the patient is a minor)
- A parent who has access rights (if the patient is a minor)
- A brother or sister
- Any other relative
- The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee (OPGT)
(Taken from Publications Ontario, Making Substitute Health Care Decisions: The Role of the PGT)
When to get started
“It is very important to appoint a power of attorney for personal care when you are still capable of making your own decisions. Otherwise, it becomes much more complicated in the absence of one,” says Price.
While wills and powers of attorney are typically drawn up earlier—often in midlife or when couples start having kids—in too many cases, they aren’t done at all. The earlier you get these documents in place, the better. You can, unfortunately, become incapacitated at any stage of your life and would want someone you trust to make decisions for you when you can’t.
Setting these up is really a matter of when and not if. “If you don’t have these documents in place, it becomes much more complicated. It could end up that the government or someone else may make decisions for you,” she says.
The finer points
Wills can become quite complicated depending on your estate and how many assets you own, such as a home or investments. Do you have any underage children that need a guardian? Are there certain items you want left to a particular person?
It’s also important to realize that there are two types of power of attorney: one for property and one for personal care. “It is very important who you give your powers of attorney to: you are basically giving someone control over all of your assets and your life. It is like giving someone a blank cheque,” warns Price, who provided the following link: Make a power of attorney | Ontario.ca.
On Price’s show, Ageing in Action, the hosts interviewed Darlene Tripp of Hello Darlene and discussed legacy planning. “Darlene has created a wonderful binder called a Legacy Organizer that can be purchased to help organize things for you in the event that you have died or are unable to look after your health and property,” she says.
There are, of course, a number of lawyers that can help you set up a will and powers of attorney. Price recommends that you use a lawyer who practices family law. In 2020, she interviewed Amy Best, a local lawyer with Best Law Offices, who shared her advice.
For more information, visit Gwen Price Homes or call 705-561-2335.