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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


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

Make a Will Month – What do I need to do to get ready?

Make a Will Month – What do I need to do to get ready?

Did you know that making a Will is one of the most important things you will ever do?  Most people understand that without being told. So why is it that so many people neglect taking care of this?  Often people simply feel overwhelmed.  They believe it will take too much time, and will be too difficult.   While it might seem a little overwhelming, it really is a simple and straight-forward process.

The following is a list of things you will need to think about to prepare your Will and powers of attorney –

  1. Determine what assets you have.
  2. Determine what debts you have.
  3. Understand the ownership structure of your assets i.e. are the assets jointly held vs. sole ownership.
  4. Determine if there any investments that can appoint designated beneficiaries to minimize probate fees.
  5. Determine if any steps can be taken to minimize taxes.
  6. Understand your family structure, and potential issues and conflicts that may arise.
  7. Determine who you want to appoint as Executor or Executrix to manage the business of your estate.
  8. Determine who you want to appoint as guardian of your minor children.
  9. Determine how you will meet obligations the law imposes for support of dependents.
  10. Determine if there are any specific gifts you would like to go to specific people.
  11. Determine if there are any people with special needs who require special consideration.
  12. Determine if there are any charities you wish to give gifts to taking advantage of tax savings available.
  13. Determine how you wish to distribute your property.
  14. Determine who you would like to make decisions on your behalf before you pass away in the event that you become incapable of making decisions yourself.


That is it.  Still overwhelmed?  Don’t fret you are not alone. This is the reason why many people will hire a law firm to assist in the drafting of the document and guiding them through the entire process.

If you decide to use a law firm to assist with your Will, the law firm should be providing you with a step by step questionnaire that will assist in making sure that your situation is fully understood, and the best possible advice is being given.   The questionnaire should gather all of the information in a systematic way that makes it as simple for you as possible.

This also provides you with a very important opportunity for you to organize your assets, in a way that will be understandable to your Executor, who will need to be able to make sense of your financial situation without having you around to explain it.

When I was called to the bar in 1995, the very first thing that I did as a new lawyer was assist with the administration of an estate of an older gentleman, who was quite wealthy.  His wife never really had been part of the financial decision-making process. She arrived with 3 boxes of old correspondence from various investment companies.  There was no organization, just paperwork.   I spent countless billable hours contacting these companies, with the purpose of determining if these were active investments or not.  Some were and some weren’t.  While I took care to ensure that I did this work in the most efficient way possible, our bill was sizable and could have been avoided.

These days, with computerized records things are a little easier, as long as the people who need to know, know what investments exists, passwords to access the information etc. It can be painful, but this type of organization should be done to make the transition after death much easier.

The Alzheimer Society of Ontario has an estate planner and guide to prepare these documents. However, as there is tax planning involved that can save your estate a lot of money, and Wills and powers of attorney are a specialized area that requires specific knowledge to ensure binding documents, I highly recommend that you also use the services of a lawyer to assist you – the result – peace of mind.

Really, there is no need to be overwhelmed.  Asking for help gets the process started and it is faster than you may be imagining. And the peace of mind is measurable.


Written by:

Stephen Offenheim

Stephen Offenheim,
The Law Office of Stephen Offenheim
(416) 863-1300


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.