Each year people contact me at Seniors Consulting in Vancouver to find out what they can do to help seniors who cannot manage on their own.
When seniors need help to manage due to an illness, accident, disability or diseases associated with aging, their judgment may be impaired. The seniors may no longer be able to perform daily tasks which are important to their health and safety and may be unable to make informed choices.
The decision as to whether seniors are capable of managing their financial and legal affairs or making personal decisions is a legal one, based on medical evidence. A doctor must examine the seniors and determine whether they have the mental capacity to understand the impact of the decisions that must be made.
Seniors may have authorized someone else to make decisions through an Enduring Power of Attorney or Representation Agreement. If these are not in place and there is a demonstrated need for authority and no one else can assist, the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) may be appointed as Committee.
The PGT is appointed to protect the legal rights and financial interests of seniors who cannot protect their own interests and who have no one else who can handle this responsibility. The PGT is independent of government in its client related decision making and has a duty of undivided loyalty to the interests of its clients.
When the PGT is appointed by the Court to manage seniors’ affairs, the seniors become clients of the PGT. It has a duty to protect the seniors’ property and has authority to deal with those assets. If the seniors are declared capable to manage their own affairs, all assets are returned.
The PGT’s goal is to provide the level of help the seniors need, and to make decisions, where necessary, that the seniors would have made had they been capable. It will minimize its involvement in day to day decisions such as grocery shopping, entertainment, etc. Many seniors still maintain and use their external bank account.
The PGT pays expenses from the seniors’ trust funds. If the seniors are in a care facility, the PGT pays their maintenance charges and provides additional money for small purchases if the seniors can afford this. If the seniors live on their own, these expenses could include all the costs related to day to day living like paying hydro, medical, etc. If the seniors do not have money to cover living expenses, the PGT will apply for income assistance on their behalf.
The PGT involves the seniors and their families in all major financial and legal decisions, subject to such things as the seniors’ wishes, prior history and ability to understand, the interest and availability of family, how urgent the matter is and confidentiality.
If the seniors die while the PGT is Committee of Estate, all of the seniors’ assets become part of the estate. Until the assets have been transferred, the PGT safeguards the assets and continues to collect income.
For further information on Public Guardian and Trustee call 604-775-1007 or email: [email protected]
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.