Just think about a short-term health scenario where bills could not be paid for a few months— or worse, a year.
Notaries play an important role in the wealth management process.
We are generally one part of a professional team that often includes an investment or financial adviser, tax practitioner, and/or accountant that clearly understand the financial objectives of our clients’ estates.
Each member of the team provides his or her respective expertise and advice on wealth management with respect to budgeting and cash flow, tax planning strategies, pension planning, business planning, retirement income, and estate planning. BC Notaries are essential to meeting wealth management objectives by preparing core personal-planning documents including Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Representation Agreements.
In BC we have the Representation Agreement Act and Wills, Estates and Succession Act. In the context of those laws, BC Notaries can offer non-contentious legal advice and provide options that may impact clients and their wealth management.
Most people think of the Will as the main estate-planning tool. While that is true, the Will deals with wealth and finances only after a person dies. I believe as much planning should go into what happens to the wealth and money while a person is alive.
- While the Will can ensure your family is cared for if (and when) something happens to you and defines where your money goes, it does not deal with periods of health, personal down time, or long- term illness while you are alive.
- A Power of Attorney document is prepared pursuant to the Power of Attorney Act1 and defines who will manage your wealth and debts, short term or long
Just think about a short-term health scenario where bills could not be paid for a few months—or worse, a year.
- Realistically, personal credit scores would be negatively
- Would your mortgage renewal interest rate go higher?
- If your health event was longer, permanent, and degenerative, who would cancel your cell phone account, re-direct your mail, or file annual income taxes? A Power of Attorney properly prepared
and implemented is a powerful, helpful, and protective tool for your wealth management.
The corollary to the Power of Attorney is appointing a health representative2 in a Representation Agreement in accordance with the Representation Agreement Act3 to ensure someone can make health decisions for you when you can’t.
Health problems can have financial consequences, but a Power of Attorney done in British Columbia cannot give anyone the power to make health decisions for you. Your health representative may be called upon to manage your care for a long-term illness.
In such a scenario, mobility aids, medications, and accommodation might be necessary . . . and all have a dollar value attached.
The government certainly doesn’t provide those things for free so having a Power of Attorney in place is the tool to help the necessary expenses get paid from your wealth and finances.
At the same time, the trusted individual appointed by your Representation Agreement, a representtive who knows you intimately, would make health decisions on your behalf and work collaboratively with the appointed Power of Attorney to manage the financial impact of your evolving health care needs.
The Power of Attorney and Representation Agreements go hand in hand and are important pillars o f managing wealth.
The preparation of those documents needs information. I often tell my clients that their personal documents may be relatively straight forward, but their lives are not. Family members, family dynamics, marital status (married, widowed, common law), or blended family backgrounds factor in the decision-making process.
And when it comes to a discussion of the “golden years,” many clients give a friendly eyeroll and chuckle over their current aches and pains. None of us has a crystal ball regarding our maturing and aging process.
In Canada, we are knee-deep in a “Silver Tsunami”4 —a demographic challenge to our society where substantial numbers of people are getting old. In particular, that impacts the government health-care resources that may directly affect our personal finances and ability to self-manage.
We rely on statistics to give us a general sense of things like life expectancy rates and so on and so forth because they factor into the preparation of personal planning documents.
For example, when I talk with clients who are 30 years old vs. 90, the discussions and realties of life contexts are typically quite different. Not one of us knows until something happens to us what our particular trajectory will be or how it will be managed exactly . . . or for how long.
According to The Alzheimer Society of B.C., there are currently about 70,000 people living with dementia in our province5 and that number is anticipated to grow. My own mother had Alzheimer’s Disease; as her Power of Attorney person and the representative named in her Representation Agreement, I had many active roles to support her final life process for more than 9 years.
BC Notaries prepare our clients’ personal-planning documents for the inevitable or unexpected events of life. Wisdom defines that strategically our Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Representation Agreements generally should be viewed as 5-to- 10-year documents to be reviewed at reasonable intervals and updated in light of changed circumstances.
Whether starting with a single new document or updating older documents, our most important part of a process with clients is to gather information germane to their finances, debts, and overall wealth management. We focus on understanding and confirming details related to a client’s wealth and health and well-being objectives.
Ultimately, as a BC Notary, I am an important and trusted professional on the wealth management team.
We make the documents that support our client’s best personal health and wealth management plan to reflect his or her wishes, objectives, and legal directions.
Beverly Carter is a Notary Public with a practice in Victoria, BC, and a passionate interest in elder law.
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Silver_ Tsunami
- https://alzheimer.ca/en/bc/Research/ Research-in-BC