Why it should be on your “To-Do” list
Decisions regarding our legal, financial, property, medical, and personal care preferences are integral to our daily lives. But what happens if you are unable to make these decisions for yourself? Numerous circumstances can rob us of this ability. These situations can happen slowly and over time, such as with Alzheimer’s disease. Others may happen suddenly and without notice as a result of an accident. Being unable to make these decisions as a result of circumstances like these is referred to as legal incapacity. Put simply, this means temporary or permanent impairment by mental and/or physical disability, illness, or insufficient understanding to make rational decisions on your own behalf.
Advance Care Planning allows you to delegate alternate decision-makers to ensure your preferences are adhered to in times when legal incapacity prevents you from doing so yourself.
This process can involve discussions with your family and friends, lawyer, healthcare provider, or any other person who you may wish to have make decisions on your behalf in the event that you cannot. Adults with legal capacity have the right to express their wishes in respect of legal, financial, property, health care and personal care decisions through the use of oral or written advance directives. These instruments allow you to delegate a decision-maker for all of these areas, or numerous decision makers with specific directions given to each.
In Prince Edward Island your Advance Care Planning should include a will, a Power of Attorney, and a Health Care Directive. A will is a legal document that provides the courts with proof of your intentions regarding your property and possessions and allows your loved ones to know how you wish to have those possessions distributed. It also delegates an executor, or personal representative, who will be responsible for the execution of your final wishes. Obtaining a will is one way to spare your loved ones additional difficulties during an emotional time. If you are to die without a will it can create a long and expensive process for your loved ones.
A Power of Attorney
is a written authorization allowing a designated individual to represent you in any matter that can lawfully be done on your behalf by an attorney. Your “attorney” in this case does not necessarily mean your lawyer, though you can grant these powers to your lawyer if you so choose. The powers granted to your attorney can be as broad or as narrow as you specify. There are three types of powers of attorney: specific powers, general powers, and enduring powers. Specific powers of attorney gives an individual a specific delegation for a specific act with the power of attorney ceasing when that delegated act is completed. A general power of attorney can delegate decision-making powers for a broad range of decisions or all decisions. General powers of attorney are common in situations where people wish to delegate only one decision-maker in the event of legal incapacity. An enduring power of attorney is typically included in a general power of attorney, allowing it to continue in the event that you become mentally incompetent.
A Health Care Directive is a written document in which you explain your preferences regarding health care and treatment for future events where circumstance prevents you from making or communicating such decisions. The decision maker appointed in a Health Care Directive is called a Proxy and they will act on your behalf, in your best interests, and in line with your wishes as provided in the Directive.
Your Proxy will only make decisions on your behalf if it is medically determined that you lack the legal capacity to do so.
All of these instruments give you the opportunity to provide peace of mind for both yourself and your loved ones. They allow you to plan ahead and have your wishes be known and followed in the event that you are unable to express them. Deciding on an executor, a power of attorney, and a health care Proxy are important first steps. If you are interested in beginning your Advance Care Plan, please do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced lawyers at Key Murray Law.
Legal information appearing in this article and elsewhere on Key Murray Law’s website is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for or replace any legal or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require legal advice, you should consult directly with one of our lawyers.