The first part of this blog was all about just that, but now we are going to focus on what to do if your parent starts to deteriorate, but they do not have a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property or Power of Attorney for Personal Care. This becomes much more personal and specific to each individual situation. To help you out, we will outline two scenarios that you may find yourself in.
A reminder: for the purposes of this blog, I will use the terms “parent” and “child.” However, this how-to guide is applicable to anyone who is named as POA for any other person. This could be your parent, an aunt/uncle, grandparent, sibling or friend. I will also reference “mother” and “father” but appreciate that this obviously can apply to same-sex relationships as well.
Your father died a few years ago and your mother has been on a steady decline ever since. She never had a POA for either personal care or property. You and your brother both work full time and are unable to care for your mother. You have families of your own to care for and you are feeling very torn between your own family and caring for your mother. Banks will not give you access to your mother’s accounts unless you have either a POA for property or your mother put you on the account as a signatory. If neither of those things happened, your choices are limited and likely you will need to apply for Guardianship of Property.
Guardianship of property (and there is also guardianship for personal care) gives you powers similar to that of a POA, but to obtain guardianship you must go through the Superior Court of Justice and retain the services of a lawyer to prepare all of the necessary paperwork for you.
The court may order that you to do a passing of accounts (do a formal accounting, and yes, that’s another job for a lawyer) of all of the money going in and out of your mother’s accounts. The Public Guardian and Trustee’s office will always need to be served with any of the documents that you submit to the court.
You can choose to apply on your own or with your brother. If you apply on your own, you should obtain written consent from your brother. The consent will show the court that you have a good relationship with your bother, plan to be transparent with him about your mother’s care and assets, and that there will be no arguments moving forward.
Guardianship for Property means that your mother no longer has any say in how her finances are handled, if her house is sold or rented out, if investments are moved around to new accounts, if funds are disbursed prior to death to loved ones, etc. The same goes for Guardian of Personal Care. That means that she no longer has a say in where she lives, how her nutrition and wellbeing are handled, what activities she participates in, who her doctors are, what course of treatment she follows, etc. Some of you may be thinking that this is excessive and that you won’t require this sort of power just yet. However, without a POA in your pocket, you may find you have to go down this route sooner, rather than later, in order to properly help your mother.
Your parents are divorced, and your dad is starting to show signs that it’s time for him to move out of his house and into a retirement residence. He is still able to care for himself, but with you and your two siblings all living out of the province, you think it would be safer in the long run to get him into a community of other people his age where there is support if needed. You broach the subject with your dad and he reluctantly agrees to visit a few homes when you come out to see him next. Thankfully, he finds one he likes and agrees to move in.
All of this transition is handled by your father, with your assistance, because he is still completely lucid. As such, there is no need for you to take over, as it were. However, you need to be thinking long term, ALL THE TIME. You and your siblings do not live nearby, and you need the ability to ensure your father is cared for once he does start to lose his mental facilities. So now is the time to ask him to have POAs drawn up (and of course a Will, but that’s a topic for another blog post). With family all living out of the province, you may want to think long and hard about who your father should appoint. For property matters, most finances can be handled over the phone or email once everything is established with the participating financial institutions.
However, for personal care matters, you may want to consider finding another family member who lives nearby your dad, or a good family friend to be appointed as POA for personal care, maybe along with one or more of his children, so that if decisions need to be made quickly and family members live out of the province, it can be done easily. It may feel difficult to relinquish that choice on medical care to someone else who lives nearby your dad, but you need to think about what is best for your dad and hopefully, find someone that you, and your family trust to carry out whatever wishes your father has for his life.
If you read the first part of this blog, you know that I discussed the idea of “too late” and what is means to that of an aging person. “Too late” means that the parent has progressed so far that they are not mentally capable and therefore unable to make the decisions to retain a lawyer to draft POAs and/or a Will. You do not want to be in that situation. It is going to fall on you, as the child, to care for your parents as they age. One of the best things you can do for them now is encourage them to go to a lawyer to have POAs and a Will drafted.