Most people know it’s important to write a Will, even if they’re not planning on dying anytime soon. Just as important? Preparing enduring power of attorney.
“It’s never too early to set up enduring power of attorney, where you can choose who handles your affairs if you’re unable to,” says Jessie Legaree, an associate lawyer at RDM Lawyers LLP in Abbotsford. “It may not be enacted for decades, but it’s much easier and less costly to establish those roles before they’re needed.”
Who needs enduring power of attorney?
“A young person, or really anyone, who’s involved in an accident at home, or abroad when we’re allowed to travel,” Jessie says. “It could be a senior who’s unable to leave home because of the pandemic, or a parent who gets COVID-19. Giving a spouse, sibling, parent or close friend enduring power of attorney covers you in case of emergency.”
The next-best plan
If your loved-one doesn’t appoint enduring power of attorney and they lose capacity, Jessie says you should complete a committeeship application right away.
“Committeeship can enable you to manage your loved-one’s care and/or assets. But it can take months to be approved, so it’s best to speak with a lawyer early.”
Maybe you have a nonverbal sibling, or your parent has started showing signs of dementia. Organize committeeship now, before you need to access their assets to pay for home care or have to look at other options, including selling the family home. Committeeship applications take time, so the earlier you get started the better.
6 steps to completing a comitteeship application
- Gather documents. Do you know your loved-one’s assets? Collecting paperwork is challenging at the best of times. It’s even harder if you don’t know the specifics of accounts, investments and property.
- Prove you’re trustworthy. “If you’re named as executor in your loved-one’s Will, that’s a good start,” Jessie says. “This shows that they’ve already expressed trust in you.” Be aware though, she adds, that if you’ve ever filed for bankruptcy, that may make things more complicated because the court may question your management skills.
- Explain why you’re the person for the job. Does everyone in your family get along? Is anyone contesting your application? “The court’s goal is to protect the person whose assets and care plan is in question,” Jessie says. “If the court isn’t convinced that you have the skills and family trust, a judge may appoint a public guardian to step in.”
- Arrange doctors’ visits. Two different doctors will have to assess your loved-one. Both doctors will swear an affidavit that your loved-one is incompetent and there is not likeliness of regaining competency. “The pandemic has made doctor’s visits to care homes even more challenging,” Jessie says.
- Create a care and asset plan and swear an affidavit. You’ll have to outline what you’re planning to do with your loved-one’s assets and how you plan to continue their care. For example, how often can you visit them? Where do you think your loved one should live? The court needs to know.
- Go to court. Both the judge and the public guardian will review your case before coming to a decision, and your family members will also be given an opportunity to respond.
The sooner you look at getting a committeeship application underway the better, says Jessie. The process itself can take several months, adding a layer of stress and uncertainty to what may already be a difficult and emotional time.
Ready to set up enduring power of attorney, or submit a committeeship application? Reach out to Jessie Legaree and the estate litigation team at RDM Lawyers LLP, Abbotsford’s premiere law firm since 1971. Make an appointment at rdmlawyers.com/contact or call 604-853-0774.