Impact on Canada’s aging population: Part 4 (Power of attorney)

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BY: FAZAAD BACCHUS 

It is not usual that a young person in their prime of life would be thinking of a person who can act as their attorney or their power of attorney. Normally we would find more seniors thinking of this and all for good reason, however, it is equally important for both. Let us examine what power of attorney (POA) roles and responsibilities are and how it can affect the lives of seniors.

As a person ages, moving around may become a little more difficult than it used to be and some activities which brought much joy are now just a bother. One such activity is going to the bank to make deposits or withdrawals. So, what the senior does is decide to open an account with one of their children for ease of convenience. This child can do all the banking on behalf of the parent and surely it is a blessing for the parent. At this time a senior may consider a legal document known as the POA and appoint the very child as having POA,

There are two types of POA.

Power of attorney for property – the person you name can make decisions about your financial affairs (including paying your bills, collecting money owed to you, maintaining or selling your house, or managing your investments). It must be noted that even though someone has POA, they do not have power over your decisions. They only have power if you are not of sound mind and perhaps you should include this clause in your document. That means that as long as you are of sound mind, you retain the position where your decision is final. This type of POA is very useful as it relieves the senior of having to make stressful decisions or make stressful transactions.

The second and very critical POA is that of personal care.

Power of attorney for personal care – the person you name can make decisions about your healthcare, housing and other aspects of your personal life (such as meals and clothing) if you become mentally incapable of making these decisions. Under this clause, a senior entrusts their care to an individual who has their best interest at heart without gain for themselves. There are some people who should not be your POA for care when they are being paid by you e.g. your landlord, any person who provides care for you in the place where you live, your social worker, counselor, teacher, your doctor, nurse, therapist, or other health care provider and your homemaker or attendant.

Seniors can be very vulnerable as they get older and as such can be taken advantage of by clever and conniving persons. Many seniors are lonely, feel neglected and any affection shown to them could make them feel the world towards the giver. A senior needs to be protected from predators who are after their money, either in the form of an inheritance or regular dipping into their accounts.

Seniors need to plan their financial affairs before it becomes too late, next issue we will look at some planning ideas to help.

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