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DICK YOUNG: Are you prepared if something were to happen to you?

You’ve probably heard about powers of attorney and healthcare directives. These legal documents are vital to make sure people with serious medical concerns will have their needs taken care of – according to their own wishes – when they can’t look after themselves. SUBMITTED PHOTO
You’ve probably heard about powers of attorney and healthcare directives. These legal documents are vital to make sure people with serious medical concerns will have their needs taken care of – according to their own wishes – when they can’t look after themselves. SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Guardian

It’s not pleasant to think about, but what if your mother goes from somewhat frail one day to a hospital bed the next? Do you have access to her finances to be sure her bills are paid? Do you know what her wishes are with regards to her medical care?

Looking ahead to your own future, are you prepared if something were to happen to you?

You’ve probably heard about powers of attorney and healthcare directives. These legal documents are vital to make sure people with serious medical concerns will have their needs taken care of – according to their own wishes – when they can’t look after themselves.

A power of attorney for property gives a person you name the power to deal with your property and financial affairs when you can’t. It does not usually extend to the power of make decisions over your personal care (although it may in certain provinces or territories). The named attorney’s role kicks in when the person becomes unwell, is out of the country or is unable to deal with their own affairs for some reason.

The power is revoked when that person can make these choices again. Choose someone who is over 18 and that you trust. You can name two people, too – such as two adult children – to help ensure your finances are managed properly.

An advance directive (also called a healthcare or personal directive) for personal care is more complex. In a proxy directive (called a protection mandate in case of incapacity in Québec) you name the person who will be in charge of your healthcare decisions in the event of a very serious illness or disability.  

You can also provide an instructional directive -- also called a living will -- to lay out how decisions are to be made about your care. For example, you may not wish to receive life-support treatment to artificially sustain life. You may have requests regarding organ donation after your death as well. (While medically assisted dying is legal in Canada, it cannot be requested as part of an instructional directive.)

If you do not have a valid power of attorney for property or an advance directive and something happens, a court order will be required to appoint someone to act as your guardian or trustee. If a family member or friend does not come forward, the courts will typically appoint a public trustee or government agency to assume the role.

While these aren’t pleasant topics to think about, it’s best to be ready in advance, and make sure your loved ones have protected themselves legally too. Talk to your lawyer and professional advisor about the best choices for you. 

This column, written and published by Investors Group Financial Services Inc. and Investors Group Securities Inc., presents general information only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell any investments. Contact your own adviser for specific advice about your circumstances.

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