In our rapidly aging society, powers of attorney for personal care and property are now widespread and their importance is recognized by the general public. A family member or friend can also apply to the court to be appointed guardian of the person or the person’s property if powers of attorney have not been executed. However, family members often find themselves in a situation where a loved one is being legally cared for by a family member, or friend of the incapable person, who they no longer like or trust.
A common complaint that I hear is from family members or friends who feel excluded from participating in or influencing decisions regarding the incapable person, particularly when it comes to personal care.
However, under the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992, which generally governs the rights of an incapable person, any person, with leave, can seek directions from the court on any question arising under a power of attorney (the same is true regarding a court appointed guardian). Pursuant to sections 39 and 68 of the Act, the court may give such directions as it considers to be for the benefit of the incapable person and consistent with the Act.
Section 66(1) of the Act sets out the duties of an attorney for personal care (section 32 is the corresponding section for an attorney for property). In general, the attorney is required to exercise his or her duties and powers with diligence and in good faith.
Section 66(6) also states that an attorney must foster regular personal contact between the incapable person and supportive family members and friends. Moreover, section 66(7) states that the attorney shall consult with supportive family members and friends who are in regular contact with the incapable person, as well as the incapable person’s caregivers.
The requirements of section 66, coupled with the ability to seek directions from the court, offer family members and friends the means to ensure that they remain involved with their loved ones and are not simply sidelined. Proceeding to court is always expensive. However, where there is genuine concern and frustration that the incapable person is not being properly cared for and/or his or her finances are being squandered, recourse can be had to the courts.