Estate planning and planning for the future are sometimes difficult tasks, particularly when it comes to end-of-life planning. When forced to confront their own mortality, many people are hesitant to dive in and make a plan. Unfortunately, this may result in their wishes being unknown if an emergency situation arises.
In Ontario, when a person is incapable of making their own decisions with respect to their care, the Health Care Consent Act (the “HCCA”) and the Substitute Decisions Act (the “SDA”) allow others to make decisions on the incapable person’s behalf. Section 20 of the HCCA sets out a list of persons who may give or refuse consent to treatment on behalf of someone who is incapable to give their own consent at the time. The list of people who may make decisions is as follows:
- The incapable person’s guardian of the person, if the guardian has authority to give or refuse consent to the treatment.
- The incapable person’s attorney for personal care, if the power of attorney confers authority to give or refuse consent to the treatment.
- The incapable person’s representative appointed by the Board under section 33, if the representative has authority to give or refuse consent to the treatment.
- The incapable person’s spouse or partner.
- A child or parent of the incapable person, or a children’s aid society or other person who is lawfully entitled to give or refuse consent to the treatment in the place of the parent. This paragraph does not include a parent who has only a right of access. If a children’s aid society or other person is lawfully entitled to give or refuse consent to the treatment in the place of the parent, this paragraph does not include the parent.
- A parent of the incapable person who has only a right of access.
- A brother or sister of the incapable person.
- Any other relative of the incapable person.
A person included in this list may give or refuse consent only if no person described in an earlier paragraph is willing or available to do so. The SDA, in turn, deals with Powers of Attorney and Guardians.
If you have not taken the time to think through your wishes with respect to treatment and communicate them to others, it is difficult to know whether your substitute decision maker under the HCCA or SDA will make the choice that you would have made yourself, had you been capable. One way of dealing with this issue is by clearly expressing your wishes, such as with a “living will”. The Ministry of the Attorney General describes a “living will” as an expression that is “sometimes used to refer to a document in which you write down what you want to happen if you become ill and can’t communicate your wishes about treatment…[t]he term ‘advance directive’ is also frequently used to refer to such a document.” The Ministry of the Attorney General also notes that you can include your treatment wishes in a Power of Attorney document to ensure that your attorney is aware of them.
Pursuant to the SDA s. 66(3), guardians of the person and attorneys for personal care have a duty to make decisions on an incapable person’s behalf in accordance with the incapable person’s wishes, if known. The guardian or attorney must also use reasonable diligence to ascertain whether the incapable has set out such wishes. Accordingly, it is important to consider including your wishes in your Power of Attorney for personal care and communicating them to your attorney, to ensure that your wishes are known.
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This week on Hull on Estates, Natalia Angelini and Jonathon Kappy discuss issues involving minors and incapables. Specifically, they discuss accepting payment into court for the benefit of individuals under the age of majority as well as various statutes dealing with accepting payment into court.
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A private member’s bill that would decriminalize medical practitioners assisting with suicide is about to get its first reading in the House of Commons.
Bill C-384 would amend sections 222 (homicide) and 241 (assisted-suicide) of the Criminal Code. Currently, these provisions criminalize (or confirm the criminal liability of) medical practitioners who participate in patients’ suicides by providing their services. Bill C-384 would create an exception to criminal liability for medical practitioners if prescribed elements were met: patients would have to be 18 years of age, suffer from a terminal illness or be in severe pain without prospect of relief (though a patient who refuses pain-killers still qualifies), provide 2 written consents to die "while appearing to be lucid" at least 10 days apart, and provide a written designation of another person to act on his or her behalf if he loses lucidity.
The phrase "while appearing to be lucid" rings alarm bells off their walls. The test implies a very low capacity threshold by comparison to say, testamentary capacity, but does not deliberately fit anywhere identifiable on the capacity threshold scale. From a estates law perspective, there is no requirement in the bill that medical practitioners consult personal care guardians or attorneys before going about their business. There is no requirement for a guardian or attorney to even consider these issues, but such legal possibilities might dramatically complicate the duties and obligations of a guardian or attorney.
From this quick analysis, this bill appears to have been written without input from the estates bar (which is unsurprising – it is the first reading of a private member’s bill in a criminal law matter in federal jurisdiction). This is a good example of how broad the estates/capacity field is and the potential effects of developments in other areas of law on estates/capacity law.
Have a great day, and enjoy every day you get,
Christopher M.B. Graham – Click here for more information on Chris Graham.
In a recent news item out of Queensland, Australia, a 77-year-old man has failed in his attempt to regain control of his financial affairs. The elderly gentleman had apparently squandered part of his money on hundreds of calls to sex-chat lines. The Guardianship and Administration Tribunal of Queensland had made an order last year giving control of the elderly gentleman’s financial affairs to the Public Trustee. In November 2008, the Tribunal upheld its original order, leading the elderly gentleman to appeal the matter to the Supreme Court. Last week, the Supreme Court denied the appeal and agreed that the Tribunal retain control over the man’s financial affairs.
Details of the hearing cannot be released due to a publication ban. One wonders whether the sex-chat calls were isolated incidents or part of a pattern of unusual behaviour that convinced the Tribunal (and the Supreme Court) that the elderly gentleman’s capacity to manage his own finances was impaired. It is also unclear whether the man had family and/or whether any of his family supported his fight to regain control of his money.
I note that the Guardianship and Administration Tribunal of Queensland has similar duties and responsibilities to Ontario’s Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee of Ontario (OPGT) and the Consent and Capacity Board. The Tribunal of Queensland can determine whether or not a person has impaired decision-making capacity and, if necessary, make an order appointing a guardian and/or an administrator. In Ontario, it is the courts that primarily make determinations of incapacity.
Thanks for reading,
Bianca La Neve
Parties Under Disability – Who Can Advance Their Interests and How Does One Get The Authority To Do So?
In estate litigation it is not uncommon for one or more disputing parties to be under disability. Unless the court or a statute provide otherwise, a party under disability must be represented by a litigation guardian (see Rule 7 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, which regulates proceedings by or against parties under disability).
Someone can act as the litigation guardian for a plaintiff (or applicant) by filing an affidavit with the court, the required contents of which are set out in Rule 7.
In the case of a defendant (or respondent) who is a minor, the Children’s Lawyer shall act as the litigation guardian, unless the court orders otherwise.
In contrast, in the case of a defendant who is an adult, aside for a few exceptions set out in the Rule, no one can act as a litigation guardian until appointed by the court. The evidence that must be filed in support of the motion for such appointment is also particularized in the Rule.
Some other noteworthy provisions in Rule 7 are:
· a litigation guardian other than the Children’s Lawyer or the Public Guardian and Trustee must be represented by a lawyer;
· a litigation guardian shall diligently attend to the interests of the person under disability and take all steps necessary for the protection of those interests, including the commencement and conduct of a counterclaim, crossclaim or third party claim;
· where it appears to the court that a litigation guardian is not acting in the best interests of the party under disability, the court may substitute the Children’s Lawyer, the Public Guardian and Trustee or any other person as litigation guardian; and
· no settlement of a claim made by or against a person under disability, whether or not a proceeding has been commenced in respect of the claim, is binding on the person without the approval of a judge.
Have a great day,
Listen to Deductions from Compensation.
This week on Hull on Estates and Succession Planning, Ian and Suzana finish up the discussion on the question of accounting by reviewing deductions from compensation and briefly sum up the procedure of the passing of accounts.
Listen to The Absentee Act
This week on Hull on Estates, Christopher Graham and David Smith talk about The Absentee Act and some of the different scenarios that it applies to.
Cases for Increasing and Decreasing Compensation – Hull on Estates and Succession Planning podcast #122
Listen to Cases for Increasing and Decreasing Compensation.
This week on Hull on Estates and Succession Planning, Ian and Suzana discuss cases for increasing and decreasing compensation.
Listen to Appointing a Guardian
This week on Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Ian and Suzana talk about appointing a guardian for your children. They also discuss Ian’s appearance on BNN’s Strictly Legal with Michael Cochrane.
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In Re Cogan, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice addressed the issue of contingency legal fees. The lawsuit involved the claim of a minor suffering from cerebral palsy, with the plaintiffs alleging that the obstetrician and nurses attending at the child’s birth were negligent.
The case settled for the sum of $12,543,750. The lawyers for the plaintiffs wanted to be paid $4,174,928.45, or roughly 33.33%, on the basis of a contingency fee agreement between them and the minor’s litigation guardian. A contingency fee agreement is an arrangement whereby a lawyer agrees to be paid a percentage of recovery in the lawsuit. Where there is no recovery, the lawyer works for free. Where there is a substantial recovery, the lawyer benefits accordingly.
The Court was asked to rule on whether the contingency fee agreement should be allowed. In its lengthy weighing of both sides, the Court found, among other things, that: The agreement was obtained in a fair way; 2. The agreement was reasonable; 3. The risk to the lawyer of not getting paid and not getting reimbursed for disbursements was high; 4. The case was complex and required significant time commitment and delayed payment; and 5. The result achieved by the lawyer was exceptional.
The Court also commented on the importance of access to justice for vulnerable plaintiffs like the minor and the role contingency agreements can play in fostering that goal.
Therefore, the Court upheld the agreement.
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