Protecting yourself when you're not able

One of the most abused legal documents is the Power of Attorney. It can give power to a person who might misuse it and leave you powerless in controlling your own life. Same goes for a Personal Care Directive because if this document is ill-prepared, you could end up receiving medical care in a way you never wanted. However, without these documents, you and your family could face costly litigation to unfreeze your assets, or you may be resuscitated when you didn’t want to be. At Estate Connection, we can help you—and ultimately your family—protect yourself financially and medically if you become incapacitated. We can discuss what documents you need, what to include and who should be assisting you with your finances and healthcare.

There are two types of Powers of Attorney and each has a specific function. The Power of Attorney (POA) is in effect while you’re mentally competent. In St. Albert, the main scenario for having a POA is if you’re in the military and you need your spouse to have access to your money to pay bills. The POA ends when you become mentally incapacitated or you revoke it. The other document is an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA). This document comes into effect either upon signing or when you become mentally incapaci­tated, and it endures throughout this condition. Within it, you appoint a reliable person to help manage your finances while, let’s say, you’re in a coma. Without an EPA, your family must apply for a trustee application and could take up to five months, meanwhile your assets are frozen.

It’s important to have a reporting function in your POA or EPA. The Powers of Attorney Act requires your appointee to report regularly the money that comes in and out of your estate’s account. It’s a difficult job, so employing an accountant or even a trust company to deal with this aspect will save the appointee a heavy burden. You can have as many POAs and EPAs as you want, which means you could have different people overseeing different aspects of your financial life.

Health decisions in Alberta are now covered by three separate legal documents: a Personal Care Directive (PCD), Supported Decision-Making Agreement and Goals of Care. A PCD is a legal document pertaining to everything medical. It outlines if you want to remain in your own home or if you want to go into an extended care facility. It informs healthcare providers if you want vaccinations or blood transfusions. It spells out any end of life wishes such as what religious rites to observe. A Supported Decision-Making Agreement allows you to appoint up to three people to communicate healthcare decisions on your behalf or to obtain your personal healthcare information. If you’re having trouble remembering what a doctor tells you, these “supporters” can make sure you’re getting the right medicine and tests, as well as they can confer with your doctor without breaching privacy laws. The Goals of Care Designations, or Green Sleeve, is a more in-depth document that picks up where the PCD leaves off in order to help emergency personnel with your medical requests. This new document was brought in by Alberta Health. It’s a more detailed instruction list that you and your family doctor fill out, and it’s kept in a green envelope. If you have an emergency, it’s recognized by all Alberta healthcare providers, especially EMTs. There are three areas to consider:

  1. Medical Care: When you want medical tests and interventions to cure or manage or condition, but you don’t want resuscitation or life-supporting measures.
  2. Resuscitative Care: When you want to be resuscitated and prolong your life by any means possible.
  3. Comfort Care: When you want your remaining time to as comfortable as possible without medical treatment to cure your illness.

Safeguarding yourself while you’re still alive but mentally incapacitated is important protection to your estate, your family and your well-being. Having the right documents prepared by a professional whose expertise is in EPAs, POAs and PCDs will help ease the burden and cost to you and your loved ones in case of a future emergency.

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