Legal Issues for Seniors to Consider
The personal legal factors that we need to manage become ever more important as we age.
Legal matters are an extremely important consideration as part of the process of establishing how your belongings and decisions are managed and left behind, the extent and organization of the care you receive, and the way decisions are made on your behalf when your abilities undergo changes and you become less able to make them yourself. Organizing matters such as living wills, powers of attorney, and instructions for life sustaining treatments, is a meaningful and essential reality that comes alone with aging.
The summary that follows is a short introduction to some of the primary legal considerations about which seniors should be aware. For additional information on these considerations, or to obtain more in-depth information about the laws specific to your province, please consult your lawyer.
Advanced Health Care Directives (Living Wills)
The Advance Directive is a vital document that is created to indicate and make clear the forms of medical intervention and long-term care that are to be employed on behalf of an individual should they become unable to make these important decisions for themselves. Advance Directives come in two forms: Living Will and Power of Attorney. A Living Will dictates instructions regarding the health care arrangements and treatments that are to be provided should the patient become incapacitated. A Power of Attorney for health care allocates the role of decision-maker to a specified person who then assumes responsibility for speaking on behalf of the individual in question. Both forms of Advance Directives are exceedingly important, and should be applied. Seniors should also make copies of these documents available to their family members, doctors, and other trusted individuals, to ensure that the instructions they dictate are followed exactly as they desire.
Wills and Trusts
Wills are the most commonly used legal documents for aging citizens. They define who will receive the personal possessions of an individual in the event of their passing. Having these documents prepared not only saves time and money, while reducing conflict between family members, but also avoids assets having assets be distributed according to applicable law. Both spouses should possess a will, and should keep it updated in order to have it accurately reflect any changes that may occur to the estate. Trusts are also a commonly used option, as they help to care for any dependent family members or assist in estate and tax planning after the trust holder has passed away. Multiple types of Trusts exist: 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 dependable individual with the right to act on your behalf. The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee has a Power of Attorney Kit that can aid you through the process of deciding upon and assigning a person of your choosing to the role of being responsible for making decisions on your behalf in the event that you become unable to do so for yourself. Legal authority is required for matters concerning 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 bequeaths that individual with the authority to make decisions regarding matters such as living arrangements and dietary choices. Should no Power of Attorney be appointed in advance of an individual becoming incapacitated, the court is able to assign a power after the fact.
Gathering Important Information
Seniors should make sure that these important legal documents remain both safe and accessible so that they are readily available when required. This will help to ensure that the information and decisions dictated within these documents 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
- Special arrangements made for health care, including advance directives
- Funeral prearrangements
- Trust documents
- 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
- 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
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