Legal Considerations for Seniors
It is so important to ensure all your legal matters are properly organized…especially if you are a senior!
Thinking about our own mortality is one of the toughest things to do, but we will all be faced with these conversations some day. Putting your legal affairs in order will affect everything from how your estate is dealt with in the event of a debilitating disease or death, the level of care you receive, and how decisions are made concerning your health when you are unable to make these decisions on your own. Without question, these are critically important and life-altering decisions that should not be taken lightly.
The following information is only a brief introduction of the legal considerations you should know about as a senior. For more information on the subjects covered – and to find out about the laws specific to your province – please consult your lawyer. Retire-At-Home in the Halton Region can recommend a good Wills and Estates Lawyer if you don’t already have one.
Advanced Health Care Directives (Living Wills)
Advance Directives are an important legal document that specifies the type of medical intervention and health care choices that will be made for you once you are no longer capable of making these decisions on you own.
Advance Directives are often in two forms: a Living Will and the Power of Attorney. A Living Will provides the actual instructions on your health care treatment should you become incapacitated. A Power of Attorney for health care appoints the person of your choice to make the vital health care decisions on your behalf.
Both forms of Advance Directives should be discussed with your lawyer, as well as your loved ones. You should also give copies of these documents to family members, doctors, and other trusted individuals, so that the instructions are followed precisely. Be sure to take time to discuss your wishes and leave the instructions with those people you most trust to follow them through.
Wills and Trusts
Your Will should also be discussed with your lawyer. A Will outlines who receives your personal possessions after you pass away. These documents can prevent fights between family members, and they can save time and money. If you are married, both spouses should have a will, and update them regularly to reflect any changes that may occur to the estate such as adding a new asset that is recently been purchased.
Trusts are also a common option, which are used to for a dependent family member or assist in estate and tax planning after the trust holder passes away. There are many types of trusts, including a living trust, which can avoid probate (in which a court decides the settlement and tax value of an estate).
Power of Attorney (POA)
Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives a loved one the right to act on your behalf when you are no longer capable of doing so. The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee has a Power of Attorney Kit that you can use. This will guide you in appointing someone to make your important decisions when the time comes. For financial decisions, legal authority is required. You can give this authority by naming someone in a continuing power of attorney for property.
For personal care decisions such as where you live or what you eat, you can appoint a POA for Personal Care. This can often be a different person than your POA for finances as it may require a different set of decision-making skills and a softer approach to the issues you might be facing. If you do not appoint anyone for this, someone can legally be appointed after you are incapacitated.
Gathering Critical Information for these Decisions
Because of all the factors you must consider in preparing and maintaining these documents, you should always have easy, but secured access to them. That way, in the event of a medical emergency or other crisis, the documents are readily available for your loved ones to access.
The following is a list of information that is recommended to have organized:
- Birth certificate
- Social Insurance Number
- Life insurance information, including policy number
- Names and addresses of family doctor and other specialists involved in your care
- Special arrangements made for health care, including advance directives
- Funeral prearrangements
- Trust documents
- Sources of income and assets
- Bank statements and safe deposit box locations
- Mortgage papers
- Investment records
- Negotiable securities
- Credit card information
- Most recent income tax return
- Loan papers
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