Many people in Alberta do not realize the importance of estate planning, and those who do might not realize that estate plans do not only serve a purpose after the death of the testator. While wills and estates might record the testator’s wishes for distributing assets after death, there are ways to protect his or her interests in the event of incapacitation. Establishing powers of attorney can protect a person who becomes unable to handle financial and medical matters.
Despite the name, the person granted a power of attorney need not be a lawyer. The individual granting the power can appoint any trustworthy person to fill this position, and he or she can even name a substitute guardian to take over if the designated power of attorney can no longer play that role. In most cases, it is wise to appoint two powers of attorney — one to handle financial matters, and one to make medical decisions on the maker’s behalf.
If a person becomes incapacitated as the result of an accident or illness, and does not have established powers of attorney, a close friend or family member can apply to become the guardian. The court will review the application to ensure the applicant is trustworthy or, if the application is not approved, appoint someone else. In both cases, the applicant or a court-appointed guardian might not have been the choice of the individual involved.
Drafting wills and estates could be a daunting prospect. An experienced Alberta lawyer can provide valuable assistance throughout the process, including the choice and appointment of powers of attorney. Legal counsel can also help a person who wants to apply to be a loved one’s guardian if the loved one neglected to appoint powers of attorney.