Personal Directives Lawyers in Calgary
In Alberta, “living wills” are called “personal directives”.
They are essentially the same type of estate planning document, allowing people to make provisions for later in life and outlining their wishes for personal affairs and healthcare as they age.
The benefits of planning ahead like this are considerable. With a personal directive in place, you can avoid confusion, delays, and disputes among loved ones should you lose the capacity to make decisions for yourself in the future.
At Spectrum Family Law in Calgary, our experienced estate planning lawyers can help you prepare a legally enforceable personal directive that accurately reflects your wishes.
What does a personal directive achieve?
You may never use a personal directive but it can bring great peace of mind if you have one in place.
The reason why more people don’t have personal directives in Alberta may be because they aren’t aware of the benefits and/or because it can be extremely challenging to consider a time when you can no longer make decisions yourself.
As you age, it becomes even more important to make provisions for these potential outcomes. Imagine you suffer a serious accident, illness or age-related mental decline and are left incapable of communicating what you want to loved ones.
If you have not left instructions with anyone, you could be passing on a troubling and complex situation for loved ones. They might need to go to court to resolve it.
Most people want to avoid this – but do not necessarily take the steps to protect against it happening.
That’s where a personal directive comes in. This legal document makes provisions for the situations in life that nobody likes to contemplate.
You can do the following with a personal directive:
- Name a trusted individual as your legal representative (“agent”)
- Authorize the agent to make personal decisions on your behalf temporarily or for the long term
- Share it with the relevant people and authorities such as healthcare providers, family members, etc.
What should a personal directive include?
Personal directives can be very specific or provide general guidelines, depending on how clear you are on certain wishes and preferences.
The closer your relationship is with your nominated agent, the more likely you are to leave decision-making powers to them in your personal directive.
Most personal directives will include three specific types of information:
1. Medical preferences
If you are not in a position to decide on medical care (medication, surgery, end-of-life decisions, etc.), your agent named in the personal directive can carry out your predefined wishes on your behalf.
When specific instructions are left, your agent can be given the power to make decisions in your best interests.
If you already have an enduring power of attorney set up, that will act in a similar way to this section of the personal directive. However, bear in mind that the agent named in a personal directive has no power to make financial decisions on your behalf.
2. Dwelling preferences
You can state in your personal directive where you would like to live in the event of mental incapacity from a serious injury, illness or mental decline.
This includes specifying a preferred type of residence (as well as whom you wish to live with) if you are unable to remain at home, for instance.
3. Personal preferences
We all make countless decisions every day about our personal circumstances. We take these for granted until we lose the power to communicate or make decisions for ourselves.
A personal directive empowers your agent to make provisions according to stated preferences about the following types of choices:
- Dietary choices
- Exercise preferences
- Religious practices you follow
- The people you associate with socially
- Preferred leisure activities
When stating your preferences in your personal directive, consider how they will be financed. Remember, you will need an enduring power of attorney in place for a nominated individual to make financial decisions on your behalf.
Sometimes, people nominate the same person as the power of attorney and the agent in a personal directive. This can simplify matters.
If this is not the case, consider that the two representatives may need to work together in your best interests so they should be on good terms with each other.
Main benefits of having a personal directive in Alberta
A personal directive is not a legal requirement but it can solve many issues for you as you age.
Most people set up personal directives in Alberta for the following reasons:
- Trust: you get to appoint a trusted person to look after your personal affairs if you are unable to do so
- Control: you remain in control of your personal/living preferences and medical choices in later life
- Peace of mind: you avoid potential confusion, delays and stress for family members who may otherwise have to go to court if you lose capacity
Review your personal directive from time to time
The decisions you make now may not reflect your wishes later in life.
It is, therefore, important to review your personal directive from time to time to check if changing circumstances, relationships, beliefs or opinions warrant alterations.
In this respect, a personal directive is no different from a will or any other estate planning document. Make sure all your documents are kept current, accurate, and up-to-date.
What can happen if you don’t have a personal directive?
With no personal directive, you and your loved ones could face the following adverse situations:
- You may have no control over decisions that affect you in later life
- You may be placed in a care facility or with people you do not wish to live with
- A stranger (healthcare provider) may need to elect a next of kin to make decisions on your behalf
- Loved ones may face the delays and expense of having to apply to the court for legal guardianship to make personal decisions on your behalf
Draft a personal directive in Calgary
There are no templates with personal directives. Yours should be custom drafted and incorporate your specific wishes.
Please contact us now to schedule a consultation or call us at (403) 452-0043. We look forward to meeting with you.