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Category: Planning for the Future

Power of Attorney: Empowering you to help your loved one

Power of Attorney: Empowering you to help your loved one

Follow us, as Elizabeth Murray tells the moving story of her mother’s battle with dementia. In this blog series, Murray explores every part of the experience of caring for someone with dementia, sharing her memories and insights from it all. Her words serve as a great reminder of the many ways dementia affects our lives, and the lives of our loved ones.

Moving my mother into a nursing home was a difficult decision. Executing that decision was even more difficult.

My mother had always been fiercely independent. Even after my father died and she lived alone, she was determined to do everything for herself.

My mother knew that if she were to become mentally incapable, someone else would have to make decisions about her health care, medical treatment and living arrangements. We had discussed the benefits of a Power of Attorney for Personal Care and she acknowledged that I was the person she would want to have make those decisions if she couldn’t do so herself. The problem was that she really believed she would always be able to determine her own destiny; that she would always be able to live alone and take care of herself.

Although my husband and I were both lawyers and we knew the consequences of our inaction, neither of us were inclined to push the issue and persuade her to sign the document.

When my mother was diagnosed with dementia, she wasn’t prepared to admit that she needed assistance of any kind and she certainly wasn’t prepared to move out of her house voluntarily.

When my mother was no longer safe living on her own, I didn’t have the authority to move her into a nursing home or to ensure that she received appropriate care. Before I could make any decisions on my mother’s behalf, I had to apply to court and ask to be appointed as her committee. The process was cumbersome and time-consuming. It added to the stress of an already stressful situation.

Contemplating a time when a Power of Attorney for Personal Health Care is required is not easy, but the decision is an important one to make. Don’t make the same mistake I did. It’s better to have a plan and not need it than to need a plan and not have it.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the power to act on your behalf. This person is called your “attorney,” though he or she is not usually a lawyer. Powers of Attorney for Personal Care deal with the following matters:

• The appointment of an attorney and the appointment of an alternate attorney if the first named attorney is unable or unwilling to make a decision or is not readily available to make a decision;
• The types of decisions an attorney is authorized to make regarding your care;
• Medical directives with respect to treatment;
• Provisions for payment of compensation to the attorney for the decision-making; and
• Provisions to protect the attorney from decisions that might be unpopular with some members of a family.

Depending on where in Canada you live, a Power of Attorney for Personal Care may be called a power of attorney, a personal or health directive, or a representation agreement. Sometimes, the same document can deal with personal care issues as well as financial matters. A committee may also be called a guardian.

At the Alzheimer Society of Ontario, you can find many resources to help you prepare for the future at www.alzsuperhero.ca

 

Written by:

Writer Elizabeth Murray
Elizabeth Murray
Retired lawyer and the author of Holding on to Mamie:  My Mother, Dementia and Me.
For more information about Elizabeth and her story visit www.holdingontomamie.ca.

How do you want to leave your financial legacy?

How do you want to leave your financial legacy?

Planning for the future is important for everyone, but it’s especially important if you or someone you care about has dementia. That’s why we’ve partnered with RBC Wealth Management Estate & Trust Services to bring you a series of informative blogs about estate planning.

In this blog, Leanne Kaufman, Head of RBC Estate & Trust Services, asks ‘What kind of financial legacy do you want to leave behind?’

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Power of Attorney: Planning for the future

Power of Attorney: Planning for the future

Follow us, as Elizabeth Murray tells the moving story of her mother’s battle with dementia. In this blog series, Murray explores every part of the experience of caring for someone with dementia, sharing her memories and insights from it all. Her words serve as a great reminder of the many ways dementia affects our lives, and the lives of our loved ones.

Two months before she was diagnosed with dementia, my mother and I were reviewing her bankbooks at her kitchen table.

She had received a letter from her financial advisor informing her about something that had occurred with one of her Registered Retirement Investment Funds. Her understanding was that one of the semi-annual payments she ordinarily received had been withheld and that any request she made for the money would be denied. A telephone conversation with her advisor had left her frustrated and confused.

She was relieved when I offered to talk to him on her behalf. He was even more relieved to accept my call.

He told me that the regular payments from my mother’s RRIFs had been made as usual. The issue was that she hadn’t cashed a cheque for a capital payment that she had also requested. After six months, the cheque had been cancelled and the money had been deposited into her account. Further steps had to be taken to ensure that she didn’t pay income tax on the money she hadn’t received. My mother didn’t understand the problem and she wasn’t prepared to give the financial advisor the instructions he needed to solve it.

Unfortunately, my mother had never signed a Power of Attorney for Property. As a result, I didn’t legally have the authority to tell her financial advisor to take the required action, even though it was obviously in her best interests.

A Power of Attorney for Property is a legal document that gives someone else the power to manage your money and property on your behalf. A Power of Attorney for Personal Care is a legal gives someone the power to manage medical and personal care decisions. It can specifically provide that the person(s) you appoint maintains their power if, later in life, you are unable to make important decisions by yourself.

My mother had never wanted to think about a time when she would need help to manage her financial affairs. While it is a difficult decision to make, by choosing your Powers of Attorney early in life, you can rest easy feeling prepared for the future.

It is especially important that someone with dementia has Powers of Attorney to help make decisions when they are unable to do so. At the Alzheimer Society of Ontario, you can find many resources to help you prepare for the future at www.alzsuperhero.ca

 

Written by:

Writer Elizabeth Murray
Elizabeth Murray
Retired lawyer and the author of Holding on to Mamie:  My Mother, Dementia and Me.
For more information about Elizabeth and her story visit www.holdingontomamie.ca.

Living well…right to the end

Living well…right to the end

May 7 – 13, 2017 is National Hospice Palliative Care Week. Mary Schulz, Director of Education at the Alzheimer Society of Canada discusses some of the misconceptions about palliative care and why it’s important to have conversations about end-of-life.

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What will your legacy be?

What will your legacy be?

Death is a fact of life. Because the transition from life to death is an unknown, humans are full of fear. And fear drives us to avoidance. Even though there has been increasing media attention to end-of-life issues recently, we seem to live in a death-phobic, death-avoidance culture. While our television, movie and video game screens are often filled with images of violent death. And news reports remind us every day of various threats to life.

Can we shift our perceptions to think about our Legacy instead of our deaths? May is Leave a Legacy month in Canada.

May is national LEAVE A LEGACY™ month across Canada. LEAVE A LEGACY™ is a national public awareness program designed to encourage Canadians to leave a gift, primarily through their Will, to a charity of their choice and to raise awareness of the importance of including a charitable gift in the estate-planning process.

The main goal of estate planning is usually to have the greatest amount of one’s estate pass to the owner’s intended beneficiaries. This includes paying the least amount of taxes. A legacy gift can benefit your favourite charity while significantly helping your family save taxes.

We are living in a time when an unprecedented amount of wealth is being transferred from one generation to the next. According to the Canadian Association of Gift Planners, in the next two decades 3.5 million Canadians are expected to die, leaving an estimated $1.5 trillion to their families and community.

Recent data on estate planning

A recent Scotiabank study found that half (50 per cent) of Canadians have a Will and just over half of Canadians (54 per cent) said they have spoken to their family about their intentions for their Will. The study also found that only one third (33 per cent) of Canadians have a Power of Attorney for property, while 59 per cent do not have one and 8 per cent say they don’t know what it is.

The disturbing part is that 50 per cent of Canadians currently don’t have a Will. According to the LEAVE A LEGACY™ program, if this trend continues, about two million Canadians over the next two decade will end life without a Will to protect their assets and their families. Without a Will, people lose the ability to control distribution of their estate to their chosen beneficiaries!

A common myth is people think you have to be wealthy to make a legacy gift—this is simply not true. Anyone can arrange to leave a charitable gift from their estate, regardless of its size.

People give for many different reasons; to ensure their memory lives on, to ensure that their favorite charity is able to continue its important work, to minimize the tax liability that comes with the transfer of one’s estate to surviving family members.

You have the ability to help the lives of people with dementia and create a lasting legacy. Gifts left to the Alzheimer Society of Ontario gives us the security of future funds. This May, get into action, do your Will, leave a legacy and create a brighter future for communities across Canada. We are here to help, request our free Super Hero Estate Planner and Guide. Not all Super Heroes wear capes. At the Alzheimer Society our Super Heroes leave a gift in their Wills to fight our #1 foe – dementia. Take a stand. Get the job done. Protect and help others and gain peace of mind. To learn more, and to request a free estate planner and guide, go to alzsuperhero.ca

 

Written by:

Colleen Bradley Chief Development Officer, Planned Giving Alzheimer Society of Ontario
Colleen Bradley
Chief Development Officer, Planned Giving Alzheimer Society of Ontario

 

Is it time to move to long-term care?

Is it time to move to long-term care?

You survived the holidays and you’re now getting back into your regular routine. For many people, the holidays are a time to get together with friends and relatives that you haven’t seen in a while. As joyful as these gatherings can be, they can also bring new worries. You may have noticed that your father seems more forgetful.  Perhaps your aunt’s dementia seems to be getting worse.  Or, a dear friend may have seemed frailer than you remembered.

We try to care for relatives and friends in our own homes for as long as possible.  But when a person has dementia, this can be especially challenging. Even families who are well resourced and living close to each other often struggle to support someone who needs a lot of care at home until the end of life.

As difficult as it is, moving to a long-term care home is more the norm than the exception for families of someone with dementia. Research shows that 57% of seniors living in a residential care home have Alzheimer’s disease and/or another form of dementia. And, 70% of people with dementia will eventually die in a nursing home.

At the Alzheimer Society, people who have dementia often tell us they worry about someday moving into long-term care.  Their families tell us that it can be the hardest decision they’ll ever make:  “How will I know it is time?” “What about the promises we made to care for each other until the end?”  “How do I choose a home?” “How much will it cost?” “Will my partner get the care she needs?”

That’s why the Alzheimer Society has created a new series of checklists to help families know what to ask and look for when choosing a long-term care home, and how to adjust to the transition. These come in four easy-to-use brochures with lots of practical tips:

  • Considering the move to a long-term care home
  • Preparing for a move
  • Handling moving day, and
  • Adjusting after a move

You can download these free resources in English at www.alzheimer.ca/longtermcare and in French at www.alzheimer.ca/soinsdelongueduree from the Alzheimer Society of Canada’s website.

You can also get printed copies from your local Alzheimer Society. To find the Alzheimer Society closest to you, please visit: www.alzheimer.ca/en/provincial-office-directory or call toll free: 1-800-616-8816.

‘We’re not running and hiding’: Couple confronts possibility of dementia head-on

‘We’re not running and hiding’: Couple confronts possibility of dementia head-on

When you’ve seen the effects of dementia before, noticing even minor changes in your cognitive abilities can be alarming. Both Yvon and Susanne lost their mothers to Alzheimer’s, so they’re no strangers to the disease.

When Susanne began to show small signs of forgetfulness a few months ago, they immediately went to their doctor. After a series of tests, Susanne was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which can be—although not always—a precursor to dementia. Susanne was given appropriate medication and is showing signs of improvement. MCI is “just barely on the scale” of neurological impairment, but because of their shared family histories of Alzheimer’s, the couple is not taking any chances.

Yvon has made changes in his life now that he’s supporting a partner with MCI. He’s learning different ways of saying and doing things, taking on new tasks, and researching as much as he can about cognitive impairments and dementias. He’s reading about the importance of nutrition, exercise and mental activities. He’s also grateful for the support of friends and neighbours.

And MCI is not their only health concern. Susanne also lives with lupus and Yvon has diabetes and glaucoma in his right eye. To help manage these multiple health concerns, Yvon and Susanne are looking for new supported living arrangements to relieve some of the stress of handling everything on their own.

They’re hopeful. Being proactive about the disease gives Yvon a sense of clarity and calmness. He encourages Susanne in the kinds of activities that keep her engaged and active – doing household finances and crosswords, knitting and reading. They’re learning everything they can about the disease and have joined a support group, one of many programs available at the Alzheimer Society of Cornwall.

“The more education people have, the better prepared they can be about what’s ahead,” says Yvon. That’s why supporting the Alzheimer Society’s work in raising awareness and funding research is so critical for couples like Yvon and Susanne. Making a donation helps. Because it’s not just their disease. It’s ours too. #InItforAlz

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« On ne peut pas se sauver de la réalité » : Un couple fait face à la possibilité de se voir confronter à la maladie d’Alzheimer

Yvon and Susanne Brazeau

Même des changements mineurs dans nos capacités cognitives peuvent nous inquiéter quand on connaît les conséquences de la maladie d’Alzheimer. Cette maladie a emporté la mère de Suzanne et celle d’Yvon. Tous deux savent très bien de quoi il en retourne.

Il y a quelques mois, Suzanne a commencé à montrer des signes de perte de mémoire. Tout de suite, elle a consulté son médecin. Après une série de tests, un diagnostic de déficit cognitif léger lui a été confirmé. Même si cela n’est pas toujours le cas, ce diagnostic pourrait être un signe avant-coureur de maladie cognitive. Suzanne prend les médicaments recommandés pas son médecin et montre maintenant des signes d’amélioration. Le déficit cognitif léger est un trouble neurologique mineur, mais, en raison de ses antécédents familiaux, Suzanne ne veut courir aucun risque.

Yvon a modifié un peu son style de vie depuis qu’il prête assistance à sa conjointe. Il apprend de nouvelles façons de dire et de faire les choses, prend en charge de nouvelles tâches, et s’informe du mieux qu’il le peut sur les questions entourant les déficiences et maladies cognitives. Ses lectures lui ont fait prendre conscience de l’importance de la nutrition, de l’exercice et des activités mentales. Ses amis et ses voisins le soutiennent et il en est très reconnaissant.

Mais ce n’est pas tout. Suzanne est également atteinte du lupus et Yvon a le diabète, en plus d’un glaucome à l’œil droit. Pour ne plus être livrés à eux-mêmes dans leur combat contre la maladie et pour évacuer un peu de stress, Yvon et Suzanne tentent actuellement de trouver des services d’aide à la vie autonome.

Par-dessus tout, ils gardent l’espoir. Grâce à son attitude proactive face à la maladie, Yvon éprouve un sentiment de clarté et de calme. Il encourage Suzanne à rester active en participant aux finances du ménage et en faisant des mots croisés, du tricot et de la lecture. Ils apprennent tout ce qu’ils peuvent sur la maladie et font maintenant partie d’un groupe de soutien, qui est l’un des nombreux services offerts par la Société Alzheimer de Cornwall.

« Plus on s’informe, mieux on se prépare pour l’avenir », déclare Yvon. C’est pourquoi il est si important de soutenir les initiatives de sensibilisation du public et de financement de la recherche de la Société Alzheimer. Votre contribution est importante parce que les maladies cognitives ne concernent pas seulement les personnes atteintes. Elles nous concernent tous. #TousContreAlzheimer.

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Make a Will Month – What gifts can I give?

Make a Will Month – What gifts can I give?

November is Make a Will month in Canada – and this is my sixth and final blog post here for the Alzheimer Society. I would like to thank them so much for this incredible opportunity.  The work being done by the Alzheimer Society is incredible and so needed. Hopefully one day there will be a cure for this horrible disease. Now on to my post.

The law in Ontario is pretty wide open with regards to giving gifts of property in a Will.  You have almost complete discretion.  The vast majority of my married clients leave all of their property to their spouse with a gift over to their children with a further gift over to their grandchildren.  They often will pick out specific gifts to give to specific people.  This is not a required way to do things, it is just the most common.

In addition, my clients will often choose to give charitable gifts to registered charitable organizations like the Alzheimer Society, in order to take advantage of very favourable tax breaks the Canadian government provides.

When you speak to a lawyer or the planned giving departments of charitable organizations like the Alzheimer Society they can talk you through the various ways and the many benefits of including charitable giving in your Will.

When you have decided who is going to get what property, there are certain things you should keep in mind.

First, you are required to provide for your dependents. If you do not, the dependant has the right to bring a court action to essentially rewrite the Will. The court will look at the overall regime set up in the estate, and will only uphold a Will if it is of the opinion that it has sufficiently provided for the dependents.

Second, if a spouse is not satisfied with a Will, he or she can decide to ask for an equalization of property instead of taking under your Will.  This will likely thwart any plan to leave a spouse out of your inheritance.  It is therefore important to ensure that your spouse is reasonably provided for in your Will.

Third, there are ways to minimize your taxes, by structuring certain trusts, and appointing on your Life Insurance Policies and Designating Beneficiaries under certain registered plans like RRSPs and RRIFs.

Fourth – if your beneficiary might qualify for Disability Benefits under the Ontario Disability Support Program, there are certain trust options that are available, that can allow the beneficiary to continue receiving government assistance after receiving an inheritance.  Often people give gifts to disabled beneficiaries without taking into account the impact it will have on their government benefits.

Certain religions have specific requirements for gifts given in a Will. In most cases, those requirements can be met as long as dependents are looked after and the spouse does not elect equalization. Some religions have specific workarounds that are accepted by the religious authorities. Those items I defer to the religious leaders, but it is important for you to ask the question if that is important to you.

Other than that, there is pretty wide freedom for you to decide who gets what after your death. This freedom only exists if you take the time to make a Will. The alternative is for a government formula to decide who gets your property. It might work out the way you wish. It might not.

You do not need a lawyer to make your Will. There are online forms that you can fill out. That said, a lawyer can help guide you through the process in simple and easy to understand way.  A lawyer can make suggestions as to the most tax effective way to structure things. A lawyer will keep up with changes in the law as they occur to assist in making sure that your documents are up to date. A lawyer will make sure that you have not forgotten important things.

The process is NOT as expensive or time consuming as you may be imagining. The time and money invested in these documents such as your Will and Powers of Attorney is well spent; clients gain clarity and peace of mind.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about making your Will and Powers of Attorney. Finally, I would like to thank Sadie Etemad for her assistance in putting together these blog posts.

 

Written by:

Stephen Offenheim

Stephen Offenheim,
The Law Office of Stephen Offenheim
http://www.planyourwill.ca
(416) 863-1300
steve@planyourwill.ca

Make a Will Month – Powers of Attorney and Living Wills. What are they? Do I need one?

Make a Will Month – Powers of Attorney and Living Wills. What are they? Do I need one?

It’s Make a Will month.  As guest blogger for the Alzheimer Society this month, my focus has been on – you guessed it – Wills.

The importance of making a Will is clear. You get to choose who will get your property, who will be guardians of minor children, and who will manage the business of your estate.  This planning is important to determine what will happen after you die.

But what happens before you die? As the people at the Alzheimer Society know all too well, health and mental capacity sometimes deteriorates.  What happens when a person loses the capacity to make legally binding decisions?

Without proper documentation in place, a family dealing with a loved one’s loss of capacity often must begin expensive and time consuming legal procedures to obtain authority to make those decisions. This is a situation that is easily avoided, by putting the proper documentation in place while you do have capacity.

In Ontario, there are two different documents that should be created as a part of any comprehensive estate plan.  A Power of Attorney for Property and a Continuing Power of Attorney for Personal Care.

These documents allow you to make decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to make those decisions yourself. One for property and one for personal care decisions.

Like the appointment of Executors discussed in an earlier blog post, the Power of Attorney for Property can be quite dangerous in the wrong hands.  People can fraudulently access your property.  It is therefore absolutely essential that you appoint someone that you trust totally and completely. When I say totally and completely, I mean TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY. You are able to limit the powers in the document, but that makes it much less effective, and defeats the whole purpose of making the document, which is giving someone the power to deal with your property if you lose capacity.  The more limited the document, the more difficult it becomes to effectively deal with your property.

A Power of Attorney for Personal Care, is a document that allows you to appoint a person to make health care, housing, hygiene, and other personal care decisions on your behalf.  The document allows health care providers to easily determine who has the authority to give consent on behalf of the person who made the document.

Powers of Attorney are essential, because they are so simple, and avoid bringing expensive and time consuming court proceedings in order to manage a person’s affairs.

There are kits available online to prepare these documents.  The Alzheimer Society of Ontario also has an estate planner and guide available free of charge. I urge you to complete these documents immediately.

If you need assistance, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about how these documents work.    My law firm’s $699 Family Protection Plan for couples includes 2 Wills and 4 powers of attorney.   As mentioned in a previous blog, the time and money invested in these documents is well spent; clients gain clarity and peace of mind.

What if you have very specific ideas about how you would like your care to progress in the event that you are not able to give your own instructions? This is where Living Wills come into play. A Living Will (or advance health care directive) sets out binding instructions for your attorney for personal care regarding your treatment.

Without a Living Will, your attorney for personal care has full discretion to make decisions as he or she sees fit. It is up to that person.  If you have a Living Will in place, your attorney for personal care and health care professionals are required to follow your instructions.

Some people want to make a Living Will so that their decision maker has clear guidelines to follow. Some people do not want to make a Living will so that they do not tie the hands of their decision maker. It is a personal case by case decision.

A Will and estate lawyer can help you work through the process of powers of attorney and Living Wills. If you would like more information about this or any other Will and estate matter, please feel free to contact me.

 

Written by:

Stephen Offenheim

Stephen Offenheim,
The Law Office of Stephen Offenheim
http://www.planyourwill.ca
(416) 863-1300
steve@planyourwill.ca

Make a Will Month – Tips on how you can get ready

Make a Will Month – Tips on how you can get ready

It is Make a Will month in Canada, and I am thrilled to be able to guest blog here on the Alzheimer Society of Ontario’s website.  In a previous entry, I outlined the things you need to do to get ready to make your Will. One of the most important things you will do when you make your Will is to decide who will manage the business of settling up and closing your estate once you die – in other words, choosing your Executor.

The person(s) who you appoint to manage your estate is known as the “Executor” of your estate.

In general, your Executor is responsible for the following:

  1. Arranging your funeral;
  2. Paying your debts;
  3. Filing Taxes;
  4. Holding, managing, buying and selling property as is appropriate for the circumstances of your estate;
  5. Holding property in trust for minors; and
  6. Delivering the gifts to the beneficiaries set out in your Will.

 

An Executor does not need a high level of expertise as they can hire professional advisors to assist with legal and accounting matters.  However, your Executor should have a basic understanding of finances and should not be overwhelmed by financial responsibilities and paperwork.

Even more important than specific expertise is trustworthiness.  Since your Executor will have the authority to manage your finances, access your bank accounts, investments, etc., there is opportunity for mismanagement or fraud by the Executor. Unfortunately it happens more than we would like to think. APPOINT SOMEONE honest, reliable, considerate and confident who shares your values and can be held to his/her word.

When choosing your Executor, also keep in mind that it is not an easy task and your Executor may be forced to make unpopular decisions. Therefore you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • How will my Executor(s) deal with all of the paperwork required to complete my estate?
  • How will my Executor(s) communicate with my beneficiaries and other potential stakeholders, including various institutions, government agencies and professionals such as lawyers, accountants, etc.?
  • How will my Executor(s) hold up if faced with pressure from the beneficiaries?
  • How will my Executor(s) hold up, in circumstances of personal grief or personal financial difficulties?

 

Your Executor should be over the age of 18. It is preferable to have your Executor reside in the Province of Ontario if you are an Ontario resident. Non-resident Executors must purchase insurance bonds, which is an expense that will come out of your assets. There are also tax implications for non-resident trusts.

Finally, if you are facing difficulties in choosing an acceptable Executor, consider hiring an estate lawyer or a trust company to act as your Executor; it just might be the right thing for you.

Making your Will can feel overwhelming and stressful. I completely understand. This is why The Law Office of Stephen Offenheim (planyourwill.ca) is committed to making the process easy, and understandable.  For a free telephone consultation please contact me at steve@planyourwill.ca.   No question will be left unanswered.

 

Written by:

Stephen Offenheim

Stephen Offenheim,
The Law Office of Stephen Offenheim
http://www.planyourwill.ca
(416) 863-1300
steve@planyourwill.ca

 

November is Make a Will Month.  And this month YOU could be our Super Hero!   By doing your Will and including a charitable gift you can save taxes, protect those you care about and help save the world from dementia!   Act now!  Click here to request your free Estate Planner and Guide or call Kristy Cutten at 416-847-8915.