British Columbia Notaries are urging seniors and Baby Boomers are urging seniors to plan ahead for potential health surprises.
In the leadup up to today's National Seniors Day (Oct. 1) , the BC Notaries is advising seniors and baby boomers to ensure their healthcare wishes are clearly and legally documented in case they develop an unforeseen health condition where they can’t speak or care for themselves. They note that many people wait until it’s too late – and leave their loved ones unprepared to make decisions on their behalf.
Because most people over age 55 are healthy and active, Notaries believe this is the optimal time to capture their instructions, while they are still physically robust and legally of sound mind.
“As Notaries we often see previously healthy clients, even in their 50s and 60s, who are facing a critical illness diagnosis or have recently been diagnosed with dementia who want to put plans in place for their health care and sometimes, sadly, it’s too late,” Daniel Boisvert, president of the B.C. Notaries Association, said in a press release. “Health issues can be surprising, particularly when you’ve always been active, and create a very stressful time for those diagnosed and their loved ones. We strongly recommend planning before a major illness strikes, so you have time to carefully consider your options.”
According to the association, this advice applies to everyone, but it’s particularly important for the many seniors who are living alone or with a partner to whom they’re not married. A report from Statistics Canada’s 2016 survey showed that 33 per cent of women and 17 per cent of men over age 65 live alone, while seven per cent of couples live with their partner outside of traditional marriage – a 56 per cent increase since 2011.
“Seniors who are living common law, and particularly in new relationships, may have legal ties to previous partners and, of course, to their own children,” said a BC Notaries press release. “Regardless of how complex or simple these relationships might be, identifying a decision-maker without clear direction can create confusion, hurt feelings and inconsistency with an individual’s actual wishes for healthcare measures, financial decisions, and distribution of property. Legal fees can also escalate.”
According to the association, similar issues exist for people living alone because a spouse would typically make such decisions on their behalf. When these wishes are not clear, the court can step in and appoint a decision-maker, who is unlikely to be aware of the individual’s own intentions.
BC Notaries states that advance-care planning documents ensure your decisions are followed, even during dementia or a critical illness. Depending on your unique needs and situation, you might require a representation agreement, an advance care directive, and/or a power of attorney.
“Having an advance care plan in place provides peace of mind for clients and their families and loved ones, particularly if they are single, separated or living with a common-law partner,” said Kristy Martin, a Langford Notary. “It’s easier to create a plan than most people think, and most clients find the process a big stress relief.”
BC Notaries represents more than 380 Notary professionals, who deal with a wide range of non-contentious legal matters, including residential and commercial real estate transfers, mortgage refinancing, wills and advance healthcare planning, powers of attorney, and other important documents.
“People put off advance care planning and the result can be stressful and sad. It can even result in futile or delayed healthcare measures for the patient and unnecessary trauma for families and friends who are faced with decisions they’re not equipped to make,” said Tarja McLean, a Kelowna Notary. “It is important to create a plan before it is needed, before dementia or other diseases become advanced.”
To find a Notary near you and for more information, please visit www.notaries.bc.ca.