All About Estates

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail! What happens if you don’t have a Power of Attorney?

This Blog was written by: Taylor Sergeant, Scotiatrust 

In my job at as a Trust Officer, I see the importance of incapacity and estate planning daily. I understand and appreciate the value of having the difficult discussions needed to plan for a time in which you may no longer be able to make decisions for yourself. This thought often leaves me wondering, why doesn’t everyone execute a Power of Attorney?

As I reflect on these questions, many scenarios come to mind. I have seen firsthand what happens to a person and their families when a Power of Attorney is not in place. What happens when you fail to plan for a time when you are no longer capable of making competent decisions for yourself?

Let’s explore this further. You are a proud individual , you have always taken care of your family, you have a spouse and have raised children, and now have grandchildren. You have provided for your family your whole life, which has become a part of your identity. You have put off executing a Power of Attorney, you don’t need that, maybe someday, but not today. Over time you find that you are confused and have trouble with your memory. You ignore it, chalk it up to getting older, your memory is not as good as it used to be, it happens to everyone. However, it starts to get worse, you find yourself getting confused daily, it reaches a point that you know that something is wrong. You go to your doctor, and you are diagnosed with dementia, and it is accelerating quickly. What now?

Your spouse knows how proud you are, how central to your identity it is that you have always taken care of your family, you both decide that you will keep the diagnosis secret, you are not sharing this with your children. As time goes on dementia gets worse, you no longer have the capacity, and your spouse has become your caretaker. One day your spouse has a stroke and passes away suddenly. Your family is devastated, what do you do now? You are consumed by grief, so are your children but they don’t know about your dementia. Eventually, the children start to notice that something is wrong, you are not yourself, and they learn you have dementia  and you are no longer able to care for yourself. What do your children do now?

Without a power of attorney, there is no one with the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf. Your children don’t have access to your financial information to ensure your finances are managed. After speaking to a lawyer and doing research the children find out that they can apply to the court to have a guardianship granted, authorizing them to act on your behalf, the whole process is costly and will take several months.

The situation above seems extreme; however, it is all too common. Life often takes unexpected turns and people end up in situations they never thought possible. As life expectancies continue to increase individuals must take a hard look at their future and accept that they may not always be in control. They have an opportunity to take control now. They can execute a power of attorney and appoint someone they trust to take care of them when they are no longer able to. Although this process can be scary and uncomfortable to think about, what is the alternative?

I hope that reading this blog post has forced you to look at your own life, that of your family, and think, what if? If you or a loved one ended up in a situation where they are not capable what would happen? Please take the time to execute a Power of Attorney and have conversations with your appointed attorney and loved ones about what your wishes are, what you want.  You have the power to makes these decisions, take the opportunity!


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  1. Karen Kutner

    April 8, 2021 - 1:17 pm

    Well written, and so true!
    As a Capacity Assessor in Toronto, I see this all too often.

  2. Karen Henderson

    April 8, 2021 - 2:27 pm

    I have seen this in my work with families; it is heartbreaking and so unnecessary. Governments should educate Canadians on the need to plan for aging and long term care, including this need to complete the legal work. Thank you for the succinct troubling reality/story.

  3. Holly Ann Knott

    April 8, 2021 - 3:36 pm

    I’d love to see more information and encouragement, too. How do we reach people where they are? I know when a family calls me “because the doctor tells them Mom or Dad needs a power of attorney” that it’s already too late due to lack of capacity. I have thought that scaring people with horror stories should do it, but is hasn’t worked yet. So far we keep preaching to the choir, it seems.

  4. Yolanda Bouwman

    April 8, 2021 - 3:43 pm

    Thank you for this well-presented story. This was the scenario in my own parent’s situation. Thankfully, my mom and dad had bank accounts, deeds of property, etc. in joint name so it helped to minimize the challenges. I silently prayed that my father would pass away first, because I knew we would have challenges if mom, the caregiver, would leave us first… a far too common scenario for couples dealing with dementia. In the end, dad did die first. However, I completely agree with the writer that planning is extremely important. Including getting the Will updated so that the assets go in trust to the partner who has dementia…

  5. Samantha Deugo

    April 9, 2021 - 8:16 pm

    Such great examples you provided of what if! As we see firsthand, it so important to think of the future.

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