By Joanne Taylor
Tax season is a reminder to family caregivers to check on the necessary legal authority that allows them to help a spouse, aging parent or other person they support. Many people tend to focus on estate planning and making a Will. This type of planning is for after death. It is also important to do personal planning – in case help is needed when a person is alive.
Personal planning is about making legal documents in case of incapacity, for end-of-life and for other support needs. This article only discusses personal planning for financial and legal affairs.
What if the person you support is not mentally capable of signing their homeowner grant on the municipal tax form? A caregiver needs legal authority to sign on the person’s behalf.
Other financial matters a caregiver may have to manage include applying for the Disability Tax Credit, renewing or cancelling car insurance, redirecting the mail and/or arranging for direct bill payment of residential care fees.
There are two legal documents available in BC to cover financial affairs. An Enduring Power of Attorney is the most familiar and can give the most authorities.
An Enduring Power of Attorney can be “general” or it can be limited to “specific” matters. Unlike a Power of Attorney that automatically ends if the person who made it becomes mentally incapable, an Enduring Power of Attorney will continue or endure despite mental incapability.
Sometimes it is tempting to ask a legal professional to include wording that says the document only comes into effect when the person becomes mentally incapable. Although this idea seems logical, it is not helpful given the variety of circumstances that can arise. Sometimes a person is mentally capable but needs help due to a physical illness.
Mental incapability is generally not an “all or nothing” situation; it can fluctuate. An Enduring Power of Attorney is most helpful when it gives general authorities and the flexibility to act in all circumstances. You must be 19 years or older and mentally competent to make this document. A lawyer or notary public can draft it.
The other legal document in BC that covers some financial and legal affairs is the Representation Agreement. It is for routine finances, as outlined in section 7 of the Representation Agreement Act. Routine finances include the types of matters discussed earlier in this article, but it cannot cover dealing with real estate, business matters or lending or using the person’s money to benefit someone else.
You must be 19 years or older to make a Representation Agreement with routine finances. This document has proved very helpful to family caregivers because, under section 7 of the Representation Agreement Act, a person can make it even if they cannot make an Enduring Power of Attorney or manage their own affairs. It avoids adults losing their rights and becoming a non-person under guardianship.
You can find more information and legal forms on the website of the Nidus Personal Planning Resource Centre at www.nidus.ca
The Nidus Personal Planning Resource Centre and Registry is a non-profit charitable organization. At www.nidus.ca watch the video above the photos for details and forms on personal planning in BC.