Incapacitated? Be prepared…
A Representation Agreement allows you to appoint the person of your choice to make decisions about your health care. A Power of Attorney authorizes an appointed person(s) to handle your legal and financial matters.
Being unable to make your own decisions about your health care is not something anyone really wants to think about. However, making your wishes known in advance will help your loved ones take care of you in the unfortunate event that it becomes necessary.
In British Columbia if you are an adult and become mentally incompetent, health care decisions can be made for you in the following ways:
- by a person appointed as your Committee by the Supreme Court (or your adult guardian once the Adult Guardianship and Planning Statutes Amendment Act 2007 is brought into force);
- by a temporary substitute decision maker under the Health Care (Consent) and Care Facility (Admission) Act which sets out the available and qualified individuals who can temporarily provide consent on your behalf;
- by a representative appointed by you under a Representation Agreement which is a document prepared on your behalf and signed by you before you become mentally incompetent.
The benefits of the Representation Agreements are as follows:
- you can determine who will have your specific authority to make health decisions for you, so you can choose unrelated parties, or specify certain family members;
- you can set out specific or general limits to the health care authority you are granting and the decisions your representative can or cannot make on your behalf;
- you can include Living Will provisions for treatment in a circumstance where there is no reasonable prospect of recovery;
- your representative is required to follow your known wishes and beliefs;
- you can specify when the Agreement is to come into effect;
- the Agreement will override the substitute decision maker scheme of consent in the statute;
- you avoid the cost and complexity of court proceedings to have someone appointed your Committee (or adult guardian).
Since a Representation Agreement only covers health related matters you will also want to complete an Enduring Power of Attorney which provides someone (or more than one person) with the authority to attend to legal and financial matters on your behalf. You will want to carefully consider who will have that authority. These matters are complicated and require careful consideration and legal advice.
It is important to consider your future health care and other legal requirements, no matter how old you are. While it isn’t always the most pleasant task, it is wise to prepare these documents while you have sufficient legal capacity to do so.
This article is not legal advice and is general in nature. You should consult a lawyer at Mair Jensen Blair LLP to discuss your specific situation. It’s a valuable gift to yourself and to your loved ones.