Tag: Power of Attorney for Personal Care
A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives someone else the authority to make decisions on your behalf. The term “attorney” refers to the person(s) that you have chosen to act on your behalf. There are three types of POA in Ontario: general POAs for property, continuing POA for property, and POA for personal care. These documents can be very useful planning tools; however, it is important to understand the differences between them so that they can be used optimally. This blog compares the three types of POAs in Ontario.
1. General Power of Attorney for Property
A general POA for property can give your attorney the right to make decisions with respect to all or some of your finances and property. Unless you expressly restrict your attorney’s powers in the POA document, they will be able to do anything that you can do concerning your property, except make a Will.
A general POA can be limited by task, by type of property, and/or by time. For example, you may want to grant a POA for the specific purpose of selling your home. If you do not want everything you own to be managed by your appointed attorney, you could limit the property that is covered by your POA. A common example is to exclude all corporate assets from your POA. You can also specify whether the general POA starts from the moment it is executed or upon a specific date or event. To ensure that the POA is used as intended and without issue, any restrictions placed on the attorney’s powers should be clearly and unequivocally set out in the POA document.
It is important to note that a general POA allows your attorney to act on your behalf only while you are mentally capable of managing your own affairs. The general POA ends and cannot be used if and when you become mentally incapable.
2. Continuing Power of Attorney for Property
A continuing or enduring POA for property is essentially the same as a general POA for property with one key difference: the continuing POA for property allows your attorney to continue acting on your behalf even after you become mentally incapable of managing your own affairs. To ensure that the POA endures beyond your incapacity, the document must be a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property or expressly state that your attorney(s) may continue to act if you become mentally incapable.
In order to make a POA for property, you must be at least 18 years old and possess the requisite level of mental capacity as described in s. 8(1) of the Substitute Decisions Act.
3. Power of Attorney for Personal Care
A POA for personal care covers decisions relating to your personal health and well-being, such as medical treatment, diet, housing, clothing, hygiene, and safety. Similar to a POA for property, the attorney for personal care will have the authority to make almost every decision related to your personal care that you would normally make for yourself unless their powers are otherwise restricted in the POA document.
Unlike a POA for property, a POA for personal care may only be used when you are not mentally capable of making the personal care decision yourself. In other words, your attorney can only step in when there is a personal care decision that you are incapable of making for yourself. Depending on the specific decision at issue, either your attorney or a health professional must determine whether you are incapable of making the decision before your attorney can act on your behalf.
In order to make a POA for personal care, you must be at least 16 years old and possess the requisite level of mental capacity as described in s.47 of the Substitute Decisions Act.
The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee provides POA document templates, which can be found here. However, it is best to obtain legal advice when creating a POA to ensure that it is drafted in a way that will allow your attorneys to manage your property and/or personal care as you intended.
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The highly anticipated COVID-19 vaccine is being rolled out in Ontario, with some of the first shots having already been administered yesterday. The University Health Network in Toronto and The Ottawa Hospital will be the first to administer the vaccine. Frontline healthcare workers in hospitals, long-term care homes, and other high-risk settings will be given priority. Vaccinations are expected to expand to residents in long-term care homes, home care patients with chronic conditions, and First Nation communities and urban Indigenous populations later in the winter of 2021. The province has not said when vaccines will become available for every Ontarian who wishes to be immunized. However, once available, the province confirms that vaccines will not be mandated but strongly encouraged.
The mass administration of the COVID-19 vaccine could be a real game changer in the battle against coronavirus. However, a recent public opinion poll conducted by Maru Blue shows that only one-third of Canadians would take the vaccine immediately, about half of Canadians would bide their time to assess its safety or use, and the rest have no intention of getting the shot at all. So it appears that Canadians are somewhat divided on the question of whether and when to get vaccinated.
Given the difference of opinion regarding this new vaccine, it is not inconceivable that multiple substitute-decision makers (SDMs) could disagree on whether to give or refuse consent to the shot on behalf of an incapable person. How would such a disagreement be resolved?
First, it is important to note that Ontario’s capacity legislation sets out a hierarchy of SDMs. Pursuant to section 20 of the Health Care Consent Act (HCCA), the guardian of the person is at the top of this hierarchy, followed by an attorney for personal care, representative appointed by the Consent and Capacity Board (CCB), spouse or partner, parent or children, siblings, any other relatives, and lastly the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT). The decision of the highest ranking SDM will prevail over dissenting opinions from those who are lower on the hierarchy.
If there are multiple equally ranked SDMs acting with respect to a particular decision, they all have to be in agreement – the majority does not rule. If the SDMs fail to reach a consensus, any of the SDMs could apply to the CCB to try and be appointed the sole representative to make the decision. However, this option is not available where the incapable person already has a guardian of person or attorney for personal care. Another option is for the SDMs to attend mediation to try to come to an agreement. If mediation is not successful, the health practitioner must turn to the PGT for a decision. Section 20(6) of the HCCA states that the PGT is required to act and cannot decline to act in this situation.
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In uncertain times, it can be helpful to remember what we can do to plan for our own health, security, and well-being. In the past, we have blogged about “longevity planning” (i.e. advice for longer life expectancy) and the resemblances it has to executing powers of attorney for personal care (“POA PC”).
In Ontario, powers of attorney for personal care are generally governed by the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992 (the “SDA”). The Health Care Consent Act, 1996 also applies to certain decisions made by attorneys for personal care.
Personal care decisions are about health care, medical treatment, diet, housing, hygiene, and safety. An attorney for personal care will be able to make almost any decision of this nature that the grantor would normally make for him/herself when they were capable.
According to the SDA, an attorney for personal care must follow the known wishes of the grantor or make decisions in the best interest of that person. In doing so, the attorney must choose the least restrictive and intrusive course of action that is available and is appropriate in the circumstances.
If you are appointed as an attorney for personal care, below is a non-exhaustive list of steps you should take or obligations you may have:
- Obtain a copy of the POA PC and determine whether it is in effect. The POA PC only comes into effect once the grantor is incapable of making his or her personal care decisions.
- Determine whether there are any specific instructions/restrictions in the POA PC.
- Encourage the grantor’s participation in decision-making and try to foster the grantor’s independence as much as possible.
- Encourage and facilitate communication between the grantor and his/her family and friends.
- Consider developing a guardianship plan. While this is not mandatory for an attorney whose powers stem from a POA PC, it may help provide a roadmap for future decisions.
The above checklist is non-exhaustive list of some of the obligations an attorney for personal care have. Section 66(4) of the SDA also sets out a number of factors to consider when determining what personal care decisions are in the incapable person’s best interest. Most importantly, an attorney for personal care must not lose sight of the fact that he/she is a fiduciary and held to a higher standard.
Making decisions as an attorney can be difficult, particularly in uncertain circumstances. It is important to be prepared. The Ministry of the Attorney General also provides some useful information about an attorney’s obligations here. A lawyer should be consulted so the attorney understands their duties.
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The recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision in Dzelme v Dzelme acts as a helpful reminder that even if an attorney has standing to seek a passing of accounts, the Court may still refuse to grant the passing.
John was named as the attorney for personal care for his father, Ritvers, and sought an accounting of Ritver’s financial affairs from his brother Arnis (Ritvers’ other son) who was the attorney for property. Both John and Arnis agreed that John, given that he was an attorney for personal care, could apply under section 42(4)(1) of the Substitute Decisions Act for a passing of accounts without leave. Nonetheless, the Court of Appeal identified that even if a person has standing to apply for an accounting, it remains the discretion of the Court to order a passing of accounts.
In deciding whether to order the passing, the superior court judge made the following findings of fact: (i) both the father and mother were capable when they executed written instructions to Arnis not to produce any financial information about his affairs to John; (ii) the mother maintained this position in response to John’s motion; (iii) a capacity assessment found that the mother was capable of making her own decisions; (iv) a third brother corroborated Arnis’ evidence that he was abiding by his parent’s wishes; (v) the application judge did not doubt that Arnis was following his mother’s wishes; and, (vi) there was no reason to suspect that Arnis was acting improperly with respect to certain transactions.
On this basis, the Court of Appeal upheld the application judge’s dismissal of John’s request for an order that Arnis pass his accounts of Ritver’s property.
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