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How To Deal With A Power of Attorney For An Aging Parent

The other day I met with Jane (not her real name) at my office in Ottawa.  She wanted to talk about acting under a Power of Attorney for her aging mother. Recently, her mom had forgotten to pay a bill and missed an appointment … very unusual for her mom who had always been super organized. Jane is anxious and wonders if it may be time to start helping her mom manage her affairs and, if it is, how to go about taking over.

Jane had already found out that her mom had done her estate planning a few years prior with another lawyer in Ottawa. Mom had signed Powers of Attorney in which she named Jane to act for her.

Naturally, Jane was finding the situation very stressful and was concerned about doing the right thing. Jane confided that there was some animosity between herself and her brother and she didn’t want things to get worse.

After assuring Jane that her apprehension was normal, I gave Jane five tips:

  1. Educate yourself by seeking out information about the two kinds of Power of Attorneys (financial vs personal care), how acting under a Power of Attorney differs from guardianship, when to act, what an attorney should and shouldn’t do, and what an attorney must absolutely do given the responsibilities that come with the job.
  2. Establish good record-keeping practices as it is essential that someone acting under a Power of Attorney keep detailed records of all decisions and the reasons for making such decisions as well as an accounting (copies of receipts, cheques, deposits, bills paid, etc.) of all transactions.
  3. Be willing and ready to ask for help by seeking the advice of professionals including financial advisors, accountants, medical professionals, and lawyers.
  4. Remember to take care of yourself as you simply cannot take care of others if you don’t also take care of yourself.
  5. Keep your mom (as much as she is able) and other family members in the loop as you have a duty to try to explain matters to your mom and encourage her participation in decision-making to the extent she is able as well as a duty to cooperate with supportive family and close friends.   At the same time, you generally have a duty to maintain confidentiality as to your mom’s finances.

At the end of our meeting, Jane was noticeably more relaxed. Comfort and peace of mind often comes from being prepared and feeling in control of the situation whether looking after your own or someone else’s affairs.  This was a good reminder for Jane to ensure that her own estate planning documents (her Will and Powers of Attorney) were in order.

Reproduction of this blog is permitted if the author is credited.  If you have questions or if you would like more information, please call us at 613 836-9915. This blog is not intended to be legal advice but contains general information.  Please consult a lawyer or other professional to determine how the information in this blog might apply to you.

Blog posts pre-dated December 1, 2015 were originally published under Neff Law Office Professional Corporation.

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