Planning for Illness: Decision-making options, Personal Directives, and Powers of Attorney

Law

When planning for illness or incapacity, you have many legal issues to consider. See the sections below to learn about:

  • What capacity is
  • Options in Alberta for help with personal decisions (including supported decision-making, co-decision-making, and Personal Directives)
  • Options in Alberta for help with financial decisions (including Powers of Attorney, informal trusteeships, and joint tenancy of property)
  • Advance Care Planning and Goals of Care Designations
  • Planning for organ and tissue donation
  • Removing life support and medical assistance in dying
  • Other concerns: Digital assets, transportation, and housing options
  • Government benefits and assistance available during illness and old age

Choose the Process tab above for checklists, forms, and contact information you may need.

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here

Last Reviewed: July 2016
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page contains information about legal issues to consider when planning for illness. This Information Page is for:

  • adults who want to plan for a time when they will no longer be able to take care of themselves, or make decisions for themselves; and
  • adults who are already ill and may need formal “help” making decisions, even if they can still make most decisions for themselves.
Be Aware

This Information Page deals only with adults planning for their own illness, or other adults’ illnesses. For information about making decisions for a person under the age of 18, see the Having a Child: Legal Considerations and Government Benefits Information Page and the Children’s Rights Information Page.

For the most part, this Information Page is about decision-making options in case of future illness or disability. However, sometimes dealing with the issue of decision-making is more urgent. For example: if an illness has just been diagnosed. In such cases, making choices about your options may depend on many immediate factors. For example:

  • whether you can legally drive a car;
  • how easily you can move around on your own;
  • where you currently live;
  • how long your current living arrangements can continue;
  • your level of income;
  • what employment-based benefits may be available to you; and
  • what social benefits may be available to you.

As a result, this Information Page also provides an introduction to the above topics, so that you can make informed choices about your decision-making options. 

If you are in a situation where an illness or accident has already resulted in a loved one not being able to make decisions for themselves, see the Caring for and Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page.

While you are planning for illness, it is also important to plan for death. The law around death is not always as people expect. For more information, see the Planning for Death Information Page.

In general, the law and process on this Information Page are for people who live in Alberta. This is because for Alberta law to apply, the people affected should live in Alberta. If a court in any other province, territory, or country has already made an order in your case, or if a move has occurred or is planned, please see the Ongoing Family Relationships & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

You are currently on the Law tab of this Information Page, which has information on what the law says about planning for illness. For information on the processes you need to follow to help achieve what you want, click on the Process tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

The law and legal system are complex: this will take a while. Be sure to give yourself enough time to read the information below, understand how it applies to your situation, and know what actions you may need to take.

What the words mean

These words are not listed alphabetically—they are in the order that makes it easiest to understand the complete legal picture. 

If you are looking for a specific term, you can use the Glossary, which is in alphabetical order.

spouse

A person who is legally married to another person.

Adult Interdependent Relationship (AIR)

The term used in Alberta to describe what many people might think of as a “common-law” relationship. 

A person is in an Adult Interdependent Relationship if he or she has been living with and in a “relationship of interdependence” with another person:

  • for 3 years; or
  • for less than 3 years if they have signed an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement (see below); or
  • for less than 3 years if they have a child together (by birth or adoption).

A “relationship of interdependence” is a relationship where the partners are not married but they:

  • share one another’s lives;
  • are emotionally committed to one another; and
  • function as an economic and domestic unit.

The relationship does not have to be romantic or sexual to meet these requirements; it can be non-romantic (also called “platonic”).

Adult Interdependent Partner (AIP)

A person who is in an Adult Interdependent Relationship with another person.

Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement (AIPA)

A written contract in which 2 adults agree to become Adult Interdependent Partners. That contract must be in the form required by the Alberta Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement Regulation—see the following resource.

PDF Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement Regulation
Government of Alberta
English

party

Any person involved in a dispute. It can also refer to each of the people who sign a legal document.

personal decisions

All decisions that are not related to money or finances. Examples include:

  • health care and medical treatment;
  • living arrangements (whether permanent or temporary);
  • who you can have contact with;
  • social activities;
  • educational, vocational, or other training;
  • employment; and
  • any legal proceedings not related primarily to money.

financial decisions

Decisions related to anything you can own (including money). This can include:

  • obtaining it;
  • getting rid of it;
  • handling it; or
  • keeping it safe.

capacity

The term “capacity” refers to the ability (or inability) to make decisions.

In general, there are 2 parts to mental capacity:

  1. The ability to understand the nature of a decision. This includes understanding all of the information that is relevant to a particular decision.
  2. The ability to understand the consequences of making a decision. That is, a person with capacity would understand what could happen as a result of making a certain decision.

Legally, mental capacity is a clear concept: at any given moment, you either have capacity, or you do not. However, capacity can change from moment to moment. For example:

  • a person who is drunk or high may not have capacity, even if he or she otherwise would; and
  • a person can flip back and forth between having capacity and not having capacity, due to things such as the effect of medications (or forgetting to take them), or changing blood sugar levels.

In Alberta, the law assumes everyone 18 or older has mental capacity, unless it is shown otherwise (usually by a doctor's opinion or a judge's decision).

Capacity Assessment Process (CAP)

A formal method of determining whether or not a person has lost capacity, as required by Alberta’s Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act. The CAP must be completed by a doctor, psychologist, or other health care professional specifically trained to be a “Capacity Assessor.”

The Capacity Assessment Process:

  • sets very specific and consistent testing standards;
  • focuses on the kinds of decisions that the adult needs to make; and
  • evaluates the level of assistance required.

This process must be used when applying for or reviewing any of the following:

  • Co-Decision-Making Orders;
  • Guardianship Orders; and
  • Trusteeship Orders.

supported decision-making

A process that allows an adult to name one or more other adults who will help make and communicate personal decisions. Supported decision-making is intended for people who may need a bit of help from someone they trust when making personal decisions, even though they still have capacity.

For more information, see the “Supported decision-making” section below.

co-decision-making

A process that allows an adult to ask the Court to name one or more other people to help make personal decisions. Co-decision-making is intended for people who need more significant help when making personal decisions, even though they still have capacity.

For more information, see the “Co-decision-making” section below.

Personal Directive

A document that gives someone else the legal power to make your personal decisions if you ever become unable to make those decisions for yourself. Personal decisions include health-related decisions. In other provinces and countries, this document might have a different name (such as “living will” or “Power of Attorney for Health”).

Maker

A person who signs a Personal Directive. For example: if you sign a Personal Directive that gives your sister the power to make your personal decisions for you, you are called the “Maker.”

Agent

A person who is given the power to make personal decisions for another person through a Personal Directive. For example: if you sign a Personal Directive that gives your brother the power to make your personal decisions for you, your brother is called the “Agent.”

Advance Care Planning

A process to help you think about, talk about, and write down how you feel about your future health care treatment. It includes having ongoing conversations with your family members, friends, and health care providers. This will help them to know the kinds of treatment you would agree to, or refuse. It is done in case one day you become unable to express your wishes, or make your health care decisions for yourself.

Even if you are still able to make decisions for yourself, Advance Care Planning can save you much stress in an emergency situation. You will already have thought about difficult topics and decisions.

Goals of Care Designation

A specific medical form used to describe the general aim or focus of medical care. It gives instructions that guide your health care team. This form is often completed as part of Advance Care Planning. Also, it can be completed as you are admitted for treatment.

Power of Attorney

A document that gives someone else the right to make financial decisions for you, and to act on your behalf for your financial affairs. This can include paying bills, dealing with your money, and selling your property. There are different kinds of Powers of Attorney:

  • An Immediate Power of Attorney takes effect immediately and ends at a specific date or after a certain decision has been made.
  • An Immediate and Enduring Power of Attorney takes effect immediately and continues if you become unable to make your own financial decisions.
  • An Enduring Power of Attorney (also called a “Springing Power of Attorney”) takes effect only when you become unable to make your own financial decisions.

Donor

A person who signs a Power of Attorney. For example: if you sign a Power of Attorney that gives your sister the power to make your financial decisions for you, you are called the “Donor.”

Attorney

A person who is given the legal power to make financial decisions for another person through a Power of Attorney. For example: if you sign a Power of Attorney that gives your sister the power to make your financial decisions for you, your sister is called the “Attorney.” 

Be Aware

This term can also be used to refer to a lawyer (especially in the United States). However, an “Attorney” that is given decision-making power under a Power of Attorney is not the same thing as a lawyer.

to take effect

To start to apply. For example: a contract can be signed on March 15, but the terms of the contract may not start to apply until April 1. In this case, the contract “takes effect” on April 1.

property (also called “assets”)

Something that you own. Property can be:

  • “personal” property, such as bank accounts or vehicles; or
  • “real property,” such as land, a house, or a condominium.

joint tenancy

When 2 or more people own all of an asset together, that property is held in “joint tenancy.” Each person involved is called a “joint tenant.” For example: a joint bank account. Under joint tenancy, all of the joint tenants own all of the money in the bank account (not just their “share”). If one of the joint tenants dies, the entire account goes to the surviving joint tenant(s): the property is not part of the deceased’s estate.

tenancy in common

When 2 or more people own an asset together, but each owns a portion, that property is held in “tenancy in common.” Each person involved is called a “tenant in common.” For example: land. Under tenancy in common, each of the tenants owns a portion (or share) of the value of the land. If one of the tenants in common dies, that person’s portion does not automatically go to the other owner(s). Instead, that portion goes through the Will of the deceased.

digital asset

A person’s electronic or virtual property such as:

  • emails,
  • digital photos,
  • videos,
  • tweets,
  • texts,
  • music,
  • e-books, and
  • online account information for websites or programs such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, bank accounts, store accounts, PayPal, and any others.

Digital assets can have a financial value. For example, an online tool or website may make money or cost the owner something. Or, digital assets may only have sentimental value. For example, the photos of a family member.

Someone’s combined digital assets are sometimes also called their “digital estate.”

informal trusteeship

This is a less formal way of putting someone else in charge of handling some financial decisions. It is “less” formal because there is no requirement to keep track of and report the decisions that are made, and there is no need to involve the court system. Often it is less time-consuming and less expensive than other legal options (such as applying to the Court for Trusteeship). In general, informal trusteeships are offered at government departments and government-related agencies.

Although they are similar to Powers of Attorney, informal trusteeships do not work in exactly the same way. They do not use a “global” approach, where all types of financial decisions can be covered in one document. Instead, a separate informal trusteeship would need to be set up at every agency or government department that allows for these arrangements.

trustee

A person who legally holds property for the benefit of another person (who is called a “beneficiary”).

beneficiary

A person who gets money or property (a “benefit”) because they are named as the recipient of that benefit in a legal document. The benefit can come from different things, such as:

  • a life insurance policy;
  • someone’s Will; or
  • a trust. (A trust occurs where another person legally owns and takes care of the property for the benefit of the beneficiary.)

to hold property in trust

A relationship where one person (a “trustee”) legally holds property for the benefit of another person (a “beneficiary”). The trustee manages the property and collects income from the property, and then passes the income on to the beneficiary. This happens often with children, because children are too young to hold and manage property themselves.

Trustee (under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act)

A person who is legally responsible for making financial decisions for a person who is not able to do so themselves. This does not include being responsible for personal decisions: those are made by the Guardian (see below). The same person can be both the Guardian and the Trustee, but they can also be different people.

A Trustee is similar to an Attorney under a Power of Attorney, but they are different.

  • A Trustee is appointed by a court, as a result of a court application under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act.
  • An Attorney is appointed by someone who signs a Power of Attorney (a court is not involved).

Guardian (under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act)

A person who is legally responsible for making decisions about the daily personal needs of an adult who is not able to do so themselves. This includes being responsible for medical decisions. This does not include the power to make financial decisions: those are made by the Trustee (see above). The same person can be both the Guardian and the Trustee, but they can also be different people.

A Guardian is similar to an Agent named in a Personal Directive, but they are different:

  • A Guardian is appointed by a court, as a result of a court application under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act.
  • An Agent is appointed by someone who signs a Personal Directive (a court is not involved).

Indian Act

The main law through which the federal government administers Aboriginal issues, including:

  • “Indian” Status;
  • Status Indians’ Wills and estates;
  • First Nations’ governments;
  • band administration; and
  • the management of reserve lands and communal funds.

Indian

A person who has “Indian status” under Canada’s Indian Act. This term was originally used by Europeans to identify indigenous people of South America, Central America, and North America. Although it is no longer commonly used to refer to Aboriginal people, it is still the “legal” term required by the Indian Act.

Indian band (also called “First Nation”)

A group of Aboriginal people who:

  • have been declared to be a band for the purposes of the Indian Act (the Act defines certain Aboriginal people as “Indians”);
  • live on reserve lands that have been set apart for their collective use and benefit; and
  • have money held for them by the Government of Canada (also called “the Crown”).

Most bands hold reserve lands, but bands and band members do not legally own the land because the legal title belongs to the Crown and is “held in trust” (see the definition above) for the band by the Crown. 

A more modern term used for a band is “First Nation.” The terms “band” and “First Nation” are also used to describe the government of the group and its reserve. Many band governments also represent members who live off-reserve. Bands can also govern non-band members who live on the band reserve and/or work for the band.

reserve

Land set aside under Canada’s Indian Act and treaty agreements for the exclusive use of an Indian band. Band members have the right to live on reserve lands, and band government and administration is often located there.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)

The federal government department that supports Aboriginal people (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) in Canada. From 2011 to November 2015, this department was called “Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada” (AANDC). Because the change in name is still quite new, some resources and even the department’s own website may still show the old name. Before 2011, the department was called Indian Affairs and Northern Development (IAND).

The laws that may apply to you

You may wish to read the laws (also called “statutes” or “acts”) that apply to your situation. The laws included on this Information Page are:

Web Powers of Attorney Act
Government of Alberta
English




Web Nursing Homes Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Alberta
English


Web Indian Act
Government of Canada
English

When reading laws, you also need to know about the “regulations” associated with those laws. Each of the links above takes you to a page that lists the laws as well as the regulations that go with them. For more information on laws and regulations, see the Our Legal System Information Page.

If there has been family violence

Has there been any domestic abuse in the family? It is very important to recognize and admit this, both to yourself and to any organizations you approach for help. Everyone involved must be kept safe. This is especially true if the abuser is pressuring you to give them power over your affairs when you are no longer well enough to take care of yourself.

If you have been the victim of domestic violence, some things to keep in mind:

  • Be honest and upfront about it. Violence does not go away on its own. See the What is Family Violence? Information Page for more information.
  • It is never your fault. The responsibility belongs only to the abuser.
  • There is no single right way to proceed—it will depend on the exact details of your case.
  • There are criminal laws and protective laws that might be able to help.
  • Abusive situations are complicated. Consider talking to a lawyer (or another person who is helping you with your legal issues) about the best way to proceed. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid and Working with a Lawyer Information Pages for more information about your legal options.

Many of the resources on this Information Page have both general family law information as well as how that information applies in situations of family violence. Where appropriate, resources specific to situations of domestic violence are noted with this icon:

Family Violence

 

Be sure to read these resources thoroughly, because it is sometimes difficult to understand what to do in situations of violence without understanding the legal picture in general.

Why planning for illness is important

When a person becomes ill and unable to make their own decisions, someone else will need to take over and make those decisions. This is called “substitute decision-making.” Many people believe that the law says who will get this substitute decision-making power. For example: many people think that a spouse, parent, or a sibling will have automatic decision-making power. As a result, people often do not plan for such situations, and they do not complete the legal paperwork required to give anyone else decision-making power.

This belief is wrong. If you become ill or incapable of making your own decisions, Alberta law does not provide any automatic substitute decision-making powers.

Instead, Alberta law looks to what you have planned. If you have not planned anything, your loved ones will have to apply to the Court to be given permission to make your decisions for you. This costs time and money. It can also cause family problems. Sometimes, there is more than one person who wants to make decisions. They may not agree with one another about what is best to do.

For example:

  • You are injured in an accident and you are left in a coma.
  • Your partner wants to make your medical decisions.
  • If you had thought about it in advance, you would have wanted your partner to make decisions for you. But you did not leave any paperwork saying that. No one can ask you now, as you are in a coma.
  • Your parent or adult child arrives at the hospital and thinks that he or she should make the decisions instead of your partner.
  • To solve the issue, your loved ones will have to go to court and ask the judge to appoint a decision-maker. This costs time and money, and can be very emotional for everyone.

Often people plan for illness as they grow older. They realize how their life is beginning to change. This is a time when people begin to consider what it means to “age well.” See the following resource for some general information about aging in Alberta.

PDF Let's Talk About Aging: Aging Well in Alberta
Government of Alberta
English
Family Violence

Planning for illness—and planning well—is also important to keep you safe. All of the legal options described on this Information Page will give someone else the power to help you with decision-making or to make your decisions for you. These tools can help protect you from people who might take advantage of your illness to harm you or steal from you. But in the wrong hands, these tools can also be used to abuse you, as they give an abuser complete access to you and/or your money, and the ability to shut other people out.

Tip

While you are planning for illness, it is also important to plan for death. As is the case with illness, the law around death is not always as people expect. For more information, see the Planning for Death Information Page.

For more general information about planning for illness, see the following resources.

Video Wills and Estates
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 10:20.


Web Where Are Your Children Going to Go?
Huffington Post Canada
English



Audio Having “The Talk” Making plans for life.
Caregiving Matters
English

For information about updating your planning documents after separation or divorce, see the following resources.

Web Important to update your estate plan after divorce
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.​

Web Changing your Estate Plan after separation
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.
Before you begin: Understanding capacity

Before you begin planning for decision-making powers in the case of illness, you need to understand the concept of “capacity” (also called “mental capacity”).

As long as you have capacity, you can still plan for a future illness. You can still sign the legal documents that give someone else the power to help you make decisions, or to make your decisions for you.

Once you have lost capacity, it is too late. You can no longer sign the legal documents.

The legal options described on this Information Page are only available to people who still have capacity. For information about the options available for people who have already lost capacity and did not complete any legal documents about substitute decision-making before they lost capacity, see the Caring for and Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page.

Be Aware

If a person has already lost capacity, any legal document that he or she signs will not be valid.

What is capacity?

The term “capacity” refers to the ability (or inability) to make decisions.

In general, there are 2 parts to mental capacity:

  1. The ability to understand the nature of a decision. This includes understanding all of the information that is relevant to a particular decision.
  2. The ability to understand the consequences of making a decision. That is, a person with capacity would understand what could happen as a result of making a certain decision.

Legally, mental capacity is a clear concept: at any given moment, you either have capacity, or you do not.

Be Aware

In Alberta, the law assumes everyone 18 or older has mental capacity, unless it is shown otherwise (usually by a doctor’s opinion or a judge’s decision).

The capacity “continuum”

Although the law treats capacity as a clear concept, we can see in everyday life that capacity is often not so obvious.

A loss of capacity may be clear and sudden. For example, if someone was in an accident and is now in a coma. In such a case, it is clear that that person cannot make decisions for themselves.

However, a loss of capacity will often be less clear and more gradual. For example, in the case of dementia.

With some conditions, capacity can vary or come and go. In other words, a person can flip back and forth between having capacity and not having capacity. This is especially true with older adults, due to factors such as:

  • the effect of medications and/or forgetting to take them;
  • diabetes and fluctuating blood sugar levels;
  • exhaustion;
  • time of day; and
  • alcohol or drug use (especially when combined with illness and/or medication).

In other words, capacity is more of a range (also called a “continuum”). At one end, there is the clear capacity to make a decision. At the other end, there is the clear incapacity to make a decision. In between, there is a range of “more” or “less” capacity.

Even when someone “technically” has capacity, there is a range of abilities. On some days, a person may just need a bit of help. For example, even though a person still has capacity, they might sometimes have difficulty understanding. As that person moves closer and closer to incapacity, he or she may need more and more help. This means that there is a range of abilities from having “good” capacity to having no capacity, and a person can move up or down in this range for various reasons.

When a person needs a bit of help, he or she may still be able to make some decisions. Whether a person has the capacity to make a particular decision depends on the kind of decision that needs to be made. For example, the capacity required to invest money is quite different from the capacity required to decide whether or not to take an exercise class. Also, a person’s capacity can change over time—especially when a person is suffering from a disease such as dementia.

Capacity is not about vulnerability or labels

Capacity is about understanding. It is not about being at risk or in need of care. Nor is capacity about labels such as: “old,” “disabled,” or “mentally ill.” It is very important to understand this difference.

For example:

  • just because you are 94 years old does not mean that you do not have capacity;
  • just because you have a disability does not mean that you do not have capacity;
  • just because you have been diagnosed with a mental illness does not mean that you do not have capacity;
  • just because you live alone and you are often quite ill does not mean that you do not have capacity; and
  • just because you have some memory loss does not mean that you do not have capacity.

Capacity refers only to the ability (or inability) to make decisions.

Capacity is not about agreeing with others

Sometimes a person who is ill or elderly may make decisions that their loved ones do not like, or do not agree with. Or, the person may make decisions that are different than those he or she might have made in the past. This does not necessarily mean the person has lost capacity. Ill adults or elderly people have the same right as anyone else to make decisions for themselves, even if those decisions seem strange or incorrect to others.

More information about capacity

For more general information about capacity, see the following resources.


Web Understanding Legal Capacity In Alberta
Kahane Law Office
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Understanding Legal (Mental) Capacity
Kahane Law Office (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Capacity and Consent
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web When is a doctor's opinion on capacity required?
Estate Law Canada
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Brain Injury and Mental Capacity
Hull & Hull LLP (via YouTube)
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Family Violence

 

PDF Mental Capacity and Elder Abuse
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF La capacité mentale et l'abus fait aux ainé-e-s
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
French

PDF Let's Talk: Elder Abuse - Resource Manual
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Parlons-en : L'abus fait aux ainé-e-s - Manuel de ressources
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
French

PDF Elder Abuse: Let's Talk
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF L'abus fait aux aîné-e-s : Parlons-en
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
French
 
What happens when a person without capacity signs legal documents?

Capacity is a tricky issue, and the law does not always require that capacity be tested. As a result, sometimes “planning” documents (such as Personal Directives and Powers of Attorney) are signed by a person who does not have the capacity to do so.

This can happen by accident. The person signing the documents may not realize that he or she does not have capacity. Or, a family member or a loved one who is trying to help might mistakenly believe that the person does have capacity.

However, sometimes it is not an accident. For example: the people involved may know that capacity has been lost, but they may still decide to go ahead, even though they know it is not appropriate.

At other times, there may even be bad intentions. For example: a family member or loved one may try to force someone who has lost capacity to sign a legal document in order to get control over them or their money.

If a person who does not have capacity signs a legal document, a court can declare that document invalid.

Court battles are expensive and time-consuming, and they can destroy family relationships. If you know that the person who is supposed to sign the document does not have capacity, it is not wise to go ahead anyway. You can get into serious legal trouble for doing so.

Family Violence

Forcing someone to sign a document can be abuse and can lead to criminal charges. This is true regardless of the age and capacity of the person signing. For more information, see the Elder Abuse Information Page.

If a person’s capacity is uncertain, that person should be tested by a medical professional. Contact his or her family doctor. You may also wish to learn about formal Capacity Assessments under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act: see the Caring for and Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page.

Decision-making options when planning for illness: An introduction

In Alberta, there are several tools that can help with planning for decision-making in the case of illness. These tools are not automatic.They require that certain steps be taken.

The options available to you will depend on the current mental capacity of the person for whom you are planning. In general, the term “mental capacity” refers to a person’s ability to understand what they are signing. A detailed explanation of capacity is in the “Before you begin: Understanding capacity” section above.

As long as people have capacity, they can still plan for a future illness. They can still sign the legal documents that give someone else the power to help with their decisions, or to make decisions on their behalf. Once people lose capacity, it is too late. They can no longer sign those legal documents.

A brief summary of the options is listed in the two sections just below:

  • “Options for personal decision-making: An overview” and
  • “Options for financial decision-making: An overview”

More detailed information about each of the options is in the sections that follow.

For charts comparing these options, see the following resources.

Video Wills and Estates
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
English
Start at 10:20.


PDF Capacity Matters: Elements of Legal Tools
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF La capacité importe-éléments des instruments juridiques
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
French

PDF Comfort, Hopes and Wishes: Making Difficult Health Care Decisions
Provincial Health Ethics Network
English
See Part 1.
Options for personal decision-making: An overview

There are several options for personal decision-making. Some deal only with the future; some deal with right now. Some deal with all kinds of personal decision-making; some focus only on medical issues.

In many cases, a person will use more than just one of these options.

Supported decision-making

This is an option for people who still have capacity, but who may need a bit of help from someone they trust when making personal decisions. The parties sign a document called an “Authorization.”

For more information, see the “Supported decision-making” section below.

Co-decision-making

This is an option for people who still have capacity, but who need significant help in making personal decisions. The parties apply to court and, once an order is granted, they make decisions together.

For more information, see the “Co-decision-making” section below.

Personal Directive

This is a document that gives another person the power to make your personal decisions if you ever become unable to make those decisions for yourself. Personal decisions include health-related decisions. This is an option for people who have full capacity and do not need any help with personal decision-making at this time, but who want to be prepared for the future.

For more information, see the “Personal Directives” section below.

Advance Care Planning

This is a process to help you think about, talk about, and write down how you feel about your future health care treatment. It includes having ongoing conversations with your family members, friends, and health care providers. This can help them to know the kinds of treatment you would agree to, or refuse. It is done in case one day you become unable to express your wishes, or make your health care decisions for yourself.

Advance Care Planning can take place at the same time as you create your Personal Directive. You can also do it with help through supported decision-making or co-decision-making.

For more information, see the “Advance Care Planning & Goals of Care Designation” section below.

Goals of Care Designation

A Goals of Care Designation is a specific medical form used to describe the general aim or focus of medical care. It gives instructions that guide your health care team. This form can be considered as part of Advance Care Planning. However, Goals of Care Designations are generally completed when you are about to receive medical care, so your health care team knows what you want at that moment.

For example: if you get admitted into the emergency department, medical staff can write a Goals of Care Designation as a medical order after speaking with you about your wishes. This can happen whether or not you have already done any Advance Care Planning. The Goals of Care Designation can be created with help through supported decision-making or co-decision-making. Or, if you have lost capacity and have named an Agent in a Personal Directive, the Goals of Care Designation can be completed by your Agent.

For more information, see the “Advance Care Planning & Goals of Care Designation” section below.

Options for financial decision-making: An overview

The options for financial decision-making are very different than those for personal decision-making. Under Alberta law, there are no options for just “a bit of help” with financial matters when someone still has capacity. In other words, there is no “Supported Decision-Making Authorization” or “Co-Decision-Making Order” for financial decision-making.

This means that for financial decisions, there is not really a “continuum” of capacity: you either have capacity, or you do not. As a result, people sometimes use other legal tools to get “help” with financial decision-making (such as Immediate Powers of Attorney and informal trusteeships). These tools actually give a great deal of power to the “helper.”

Be Aware

The choices you make about financial decision-making can greatly affect your personal decision-making options. This is because once a person loses capacity for financial decision-making, and an Enduring Power of Attorney or a Trusteeship comes into effect, supported decision-making and co-decision-making will no longer be allowed.

Enduring (or “Springing”) Power of Attorney

This is a document that gives another person the power to make your financial decisions for you if you ever become unable to make those decisions for yourself. This is an option for people who currently have full capacity and do not need any help with financial decision-making at this time, but who want to be prepared for the future.

This can be a “global” document, meaning that it can cover all types of financial decisions. Or, it can be just for certain kinds of decisions. For example: Your Power of Attorney could say that the Attorney can only make decisions about your real property, but not about your bank accounts or other investments. Or, a Power of Attorney you made through the Royal Bank would only be valid for decisions about money held at the Royal Bank.

For more information, see the “Powers of Attorney” section below.

Immediate Power of Attorney

These are Powers of Attorney that are signed by a person with capacity, and take effect immediately. This means that both the person giving the decision-making power (the “Donor”) and the person getting the decision-making power (the “Attorney”) can make financial decisions.

Again, this can be a “global” document, meaning that it can cover all types of financial decisions. Or, it can be just for certain kinds of decisions. For example: Your Power of Attorney could say that the Attorney can only make decisions about your real property, but not about your bank accounts or other investments. Or, a Power of Attorney you made through the Royal Bank would only be valid for decisions about money held at the Royal Bank.

An example of when an Immediate Power of Attorney can be helpful is when you go away for an extended holiday. In such a case, you could appoint someone to take care of your banking and other financial issues while you are away. You could still deal with your issues yourself if you had to, but so can your Attorney. The Immediate Power of Attorney could end on the date you get back.

For more information, see the “Powers of Attorney” section below.

Informal trusteeships

This is a less formal way of putting someone else in charge of handling some financial decisions. It is “less” formal because there is no requirement to keep track of and report the decisions that are made, and there is no need to involve the court system. Often it is less time-consuming and less expensive than other legal options. In general, informal trusteeships are offered at government departments and government-related agencies.

Although they are similar to Powers of Attorney, informal trusteeships do not work in exactly the same way. They do not use a “global” approach, where all types of financial decisions can be covered in one document. Instead, a separate informal trusteeship would need to be set up at every agency or government department that allows for these arrangements.

For more information, see the “Informal trusteeships” section below.

Joint tenancy of property

The term “property” means both:

  • “personal property,” such as bank accounts or vehicles; and
  • “real property,” such as land, a house, or a condominium.

When 2 or more people own all of an asset together, that property is held in “joint tenancy.” In other words, when 2 people own something in joint tenancy, they both own all of it. This means that they each have the right to deal with all of it, any time they want. For example, if you and your child have a joint bank account, your child has the right to remove all of the money from the account without saying anything to you about it. That would be perfectly legal.

For more information, see the “Joint property” section below.

Supported decision-making

What it is

Supported decision-making is a process that allows an adult to name one or more other adults who will help make and communicate personal decisions. The parties must agree to the arrangement, but there is no need to involve the Court.

Be Aware

Supported decision-making is not available for financial decisions. Also, supported decision-making is not available for anyone who has already lost the capacity to make financial decisions (in other words, if an Enduring Power of Attorney or Trusteeship Order is already in effect).

Who it is for

This process is intended for people who may need a bit of help from someone they trust when making personal decisions, even though they still have capacity.

Supported decision-making can be helpful for people who have complex decisions to make and have a medical condition that makes it very difficult to work through complex issues. For example: if someone has “bad” days where decision-making is hard and they need some help on those days. Supported decision-making is also helpful for people with mild disabilities (such as hearing loss or mobility issues) or who have communication difficulties.

For example:

  • Terry and Alex have been together for the last 30 years.
  • This is the second marriage for each of them.
  • They each have one child from their previous marriages.
  • They also have 2 children together.
  • Alex now has hearing trouble and has been diagnosed with dementia.

Supported decision-making could be a good tool at the beginning of the illness for many reasons, including:

  • Both would agree, and both can simply sign the required form.
  • At this point, neither feels ready to tell the children and extended family members about these problems. Instead, they would like a little bit of time to deal with it themselves as they plan for their future.
  • Alex can’t always understand others due to hearing trouble, and Terry can communicate much better with Alex than anyone else can.
  • Alex has good capacity most days. However, sometimes Alex’s memory is poor. Terry has the same memories and knowledge of their life, so Terry can remind Alex as necessary.

The issue of capacity

Although a person must still have capacity to sign a Supported Decision-Making Authorization, the law does not require that capacity be tested. If a person’s capacity is uncertain, that person should be tested by a medical professional.

For more information, contact his or her family doctor. You may also wish to learn about formal Capacity Assessments under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act: see the Caring for and Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page.

How it is completed

To complete the process, the parties must sign a special form called a “Supported Decision-Making Authorization.” They do not need to complete any kind of capacity assessment, and they do not apply to a court.

Once the paperwork is complete, the person who is getting help with decision-making is called a “Supported Adult” and the person who is helping is called the “Supporter.” The parties keep a copy of the Authorization and present it as required. There is no need to register it anywhere, but it is common to provide a copy to the medical and care professionals that you will be dealing with.

For more information and the forms you will need, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

How it works

In supported decision-making, the Supporter does not make decisions: he or she only helps explain. There is no need for the Supporter to provide an opinion. However, a Supporter must keep a record of all of the decisions he or she helped with and must always act “in the best interests” of the Supported Adult.

Although it is possible for a person to “help” someone without the formal Supported Decision-Making Authorization in place, completing the legal paperwork has additional benefits. For example:

  • a Supporter has legal permission to access relevant personal information that might otherwise be protected under privacy laws; and
  • if there is only one Supporter, no one else is authorized to help with personal decision-making. This can be helpful if you are trying to protect the Supported Adult from someone else who might be abusive.

How it ends

As long as the Supported Adult still has capacity, he or she can decide to end the arrangement at any time. So can the Supporter. This is done by completing another form. If the person still needs a bit of help, he or she can complete a new Supported Decision-Making Authorization, appointing someone new as a Supporter. For more information about how to do this, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Supported Decision-Making arrangements will also end automatically if:

  • the Supported Adult gets a Co-Decision-Making Order;
  • the Supported Adult loses capacity and his or her Personal Directive comes into effect; or
  • the Supported Adult loses capacity and becomes the subject of a Guardianship Order.

Things to consider when choosing a Supporter

General considerations

Things you may wish to consider when choosing a Supporter include the following.

  • Will this person be available to talk to you and go to appointments with you when you need them to?
  • Does this person really know you and your needs?
  • Can you and this person communicate well?
  • Can this person communicate well with others?
  • Is this person responsible enough to keep track of the help he or she provided?
  • Has this person always treated you with respect?

The risk of abuse

Although the Supported Decision-Making Authorization is meant to be helpful, it can be used to abuse you. Your Supporter has access to all of your personal information and he or she may be going with you to all appointments. He or she can use the Authorization to try to control your decisions and to exclude other people who might be able to help.

If that happens, it can be difficult to respond, as there is a legal document that gives the Supporter the right to accompany you and “help” you. The Supporter can use the document to say that no one else can help you, and to shut out other people.

To help avoid this, you may wish to consider including safety precautions. For example, you can:

  • Carefully consider your options and do not enter into the arrangement lightly.
  • Choose your Supporter very carefully. Choose someone who treats you kindly and always has. Ensure that you can trust that person.
  • Have more than one Supporter so there is another person watching.
  • Include reporting requirements. For example, you can require that the Supporter and you report to someone else on a regular basis. Choose that person wisely as well.
Family Violence

If you think you are being abused, trust your instincts and seek help. See the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page. You can also call the Family Violence Information Line from anywhere in Alberta. Their toll-free phone number is 310-1818, and they are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Make sure your Supporter understands the job

Sometimes, Supporters misuse a Supported Decision-Making Authorization because they do not understand it properly. They may not realize exactly:

  • what they are allowed to do,
  • what they are required to do, or
  • what they must not do.

For example: many people do not know that Supporters must keep track of the decisions they help with. Before you start a supported decision-making arrangement, make sure the person who will be your Supporter understands what you expect from them, and when you expect them to help you.

Things to consider when deciding whether to be a Supporter

Before deciding whether or not to be a Supporter, you should consider if you can do the job. Being a Supporter creates a formal relationship that comes with legal duties.

If you have been asked to be a Supporter, be sure to review the Caring for & Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page, which has detailed information about your role as a Supporter.

More information

For more information about supported decision-making, including information about who can be a Supporter and what duties a Supporter has, see the following resources.

PDF Supported decision-making brochure
Government of Alberta
Chinese, English, French, German, Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog, Ukrainian

PDF The Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act - Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Supported decision-making | How it works
Government of Alberta
English

Video Supported Decision Making Authorization
Government of Alberta
English


PDF Capacity Matters: Elements of Legal Tools
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF La capacité importe-éléments des instruments juridiques
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
French

PDF Seniors and the Law: A Resource Guide
Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre
English
Start on p. 42.

Video Supported Decision Making Authorization
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Decision-making options brochure
Government of Alberta
Chinese, English, French, German, Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog, Ukrainian

 

Family Violence

 

PDF Elder Abuse: Planning Ahead
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF L'abus fait aux aîné-e-s : Planifier à l'avance
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
French

 

Tip

While you are planning for illness, it is also important to plan for death. The law around death is not always as people expect. For more information, see the Planning for Death Information Page.

Co-decision-making

What it is

Co-decision-making is a process that allows an adult to ask the Court to name one or more other people to help make personal decisions. The parties must all agree to the application. They apply to court together. Once an order is granted, they make decisions together.

Be Aware

Co-decision-making is not available for financial decisions. Also, co-decision-making is not available for anyone who has already lost the capacity to make financial decisions (in other words, if an Enduring Power of Attorney or Trusteeship Order is already in effect).

Who it is for

Co-decision-making is intended for people who need more significant help, guidance, and support when making personal decisions, even though they still legally have capacity. In other words, they now have more “bad” days than “good” days.

To continue with the example of Alex and Terry from the “Supported decision-making” section above:

  • Alex is starting to have a lot of bad days.
  • Terry is getting worried because, more and more, Alex does not remember the decisions they made, and they argue about the decisions afterwards.
  • Alex is having more and more trouble with complicated matters.
  • The family (including all of the children) has now been informed of Alex’s decline in health.
  • Some family members disagree with the decisions that Alex and Terry have made together, and these family members are trying to pressure Alex to make different decisions.
  • Alex and Terry could apply for co-decision-making.
  • While the matter is processing, the Supported Decision-Making Authorization continues. It will be replaced by the Co-Decision-Making Order, when it is issued.

The issue of capacity

To get a Co-Decision-Making Order, the person needing the help must take part in a Capacity Assessment and be found to be “significantly impaired.” The Capacity Assessment:

  • focuses on the kinds of decisions that the adult needs to make; and
  • evaluates the level of assistance required.

The Capacity Assessor will only look at the types of decisions where assessment is needed. For example, there may be no concerns about how the adult chooses his or her social activities, but there is concern about the adult’s ability to make health care decisions. In this situation, the Capacity Assessor would only assess the adult’s ability to make health care decisions.

The Capacity Assessment must be completed by a doctor, psychologist, or other health care professional specifically trained to be a Capacity Assessor.

How it is completed

Co-decision-making is completed by getting a court order. However, this does not mean that a court appearance will always be required. Often, you can do it with a “desk application” instead. A desk application allows the parties to get a court order without having to appear in court.

If the case is straightforward with nothing to be argued, the application can be made by submitting the appropriate paperwork to a Review Officer at the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee. The Review Officer then completes a separate report on the application and files the application with the Court of Queen’s Bench. If the Court is satisfied with the information, the Court can grant the Order. However, the Court or a concerned adult can still request a hearing to decide the matter.

Once the Order is granted, the person who is getting the help with decision-making is called an “Assisted Adult.” The person who is helping is called the “Co-Decision-Maker.” The parties keep a copy of the Order and present it as required. It is common to provide a copy to the medical and care professionals that you will be dealing with.

For more information about applying for co-decision-making, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

How it works

Under co-decision-making, the Assisted Adult and his or her Co-Decision-Maker are required to make decisions together. A Co-Decision-Maker must help the Assisted Adult in communicating or carrying out decisions. For example, when making a health care decision, both the Assisted Adult and the Co-Decision-Maker would sign the consent form. All decisions must be made in the best interests of the Assisted Adult.

However, a Co-Decision-Maker cannot decide for the Assisted Adult. They must work through decisions together. If the Assisted Adult and the Co-Decision-Maker don’t agree on a decision, the Assisted Adult’s decision applies.

Also, a Co-Decision-Maker can only assist in making decisions about the personal matters listed in the Co-Decision-Making Order. They cannot assist with decisions on any personal matter not listed in the Co-Decision-Making Order or on any financial matters.

How it ends

As long as the Assisted Adult still has capacity, he or she can apply to end the Co-Decision-Making Order at any time. So can the Co-Decision-Maker. This is done by applying to the Court. If the person still needs help, he or she can ask the Court for a different Co-Decision-Maker to be appointed. For more information about how to do this, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Co-decision-making can also end if:

  • it is ended by the Court (and, if required, a new Co-Decision-Making Order can be given);
  • the Assisted Adult loses capacity and his or her Personal Directive comes into effect; or
  • the Assisted Adult loses capacity and becomes the subject of a Guardianship Order.

Things to consider when choosing a Co-Decision-Maker

General considerations

Things you may wish to consider when choosing a Co-Decision-Maker include the following.

  • Will this person be available to talk to you and go to appointments with you when you need them to?
  • Does this person really know you and your needs?
  • Can you and this person communicate well?
  • Will this person understand that you still have the final say? Are you sure that he or she will not try to make the decisions for you?
  • Can this person communicate well with others?
  • Is this person responsible enough to keep track of the decisions you make together?
  • Has this person always treated you with respect?

The risk of abuse

Although the Co-Decision-Making Order is meant to be helpful, it can be used to abuse you. Your Co-Decision-Maker has access to all of your personal information and he or she may be accompanying you to all appointments. He or she can use the Order to try to control you. For example, he or she could try to force you to agree to something that you do not want to do. This is not allowed, but that does not mean he or she won’t try.

If that happens, it can be difficult to respond, as there is a legal document that gives the Co-Decision-Maker the right to help you make decisions. The Co-Decision-Maker can also use the Order to say that no one else can help you, and to shut out other people.

To help avoid this, you may wish to consider including safety precautions. For example, you can:

  • Carefully consider your options and do not enter into the arrangement lightly.
  • Choose your Co-Decision-Maker very carefully. Choose someone who treats you kindly and always has. Ensure that you can trust that person.
  • Have more than one Co-Decision-Maker so there is another person watching.
  • Include reporting requirements. For example, you can require that the Co-Decision-Maker and you report to someone else on a regular basis. You can even require that the Co-Decision-Maker report back to the Court about the decisions. This is done by specifying review dates in the Order.
Family Violence

If you think you are being abused, trust your instincts and seek help. Because the Co-Decision-Maker’s power comes from a Court order, you can seek help from the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee and the courts. For more information about how to do that, see the Caring for and Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page.

Make sure your Co-Decision-Maker understands the job

Sometimes, Co-Decision-Makers misuse a Co-Decision-Making Order because they do not understand it properly. They may not realize exactly:

  • what they are allowed to do,
  • what they are required to do, or
  • what they must not do.

For example: many people do not know that Co-Decision-Makers must keep track of the decisions they make. Before you start a co-decision-making arrangement, make sure the person who will be your Co-Decision-Maker understands what you expect from them, and when and how you expect them to help you.

Things to consider when deciding whether to be a Co-Decision-Maker

Before deciding whether or not to be a Co-Decision-Maker, you should consider if you can do the job. Being a Co-Decision-Maker creates a formal relationship that comes with legal duties.

If you have been asked to be a Co-Decision-Maker, be sure to review the Caring for & Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page, which has detailed information about your role as a Co-Decision-Maker.

More information

See the following resources for more information about co-decision-making, including:

  • who can be a Co-Decision-Maker,
  • what duties a Co-Decision-Maker has, and
  • how the arrangement can end.
PDF Co-decision-making brochure
Government of Alberta
Chinese, English, French, German, Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog, Ukrainian


PDF The Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act - Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Capacity Matters: Elements of Legal Tools
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF La capacité importe-éléments des instruments juridiques
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
French

Web Co-decision-making | How it works
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Seniors and the Law: A Resource Guide
Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre
English
Start on p. 44.

Video Co-Decision Making
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Decision-making options brochure
Government of Alberta
Chinese, English, French, German, Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog, Ukrainian

 

Family Violence

 

PDF Elder Abuse: Planning Ahead
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF L'abus fait aux aîné-e-s : Planifier à l'avance
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
French

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you a preview of the article, and you can find the full article at libraries across Alberta. Please note that this article is a section in a whole book. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book The Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act: What Have We Learned? (article included in "48th Annual Refresher: Wills & Estates")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Get the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.

For more information about Capacity Assessments, see the Caring for and Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page and the following resources.



PDF The Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act - Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Tip

While you are planning for illness, it is also important to plan for death. The law around death is not always as people expect. For more information, see the Planning for Death Information Page.

Personal Directives

What they are

A Personal Directive is a document that gives another person the power to make your personal decisions if you ever become unable to make those decisions for yourself. Personal decisions include health-related decisions. In some places, such a document is known as a “Living Will,” but in Alberta the correct legal term is “Personal Directive.”

Be Aware

A Personal Directive does not cover financial decisions. For that you need a Power of Attorney: see the “Powers of Attorney” section below. Personal Directives and Powers of Attorney are separate documents with different requirements: they cannot be combined.

Who they are for

Personal Directives are important for every adult in Alberta, regardless of age. This is because the law in Alberta does not allow another person to automatically make personal decisions for you if you lose the ability to do so yourself. Not even your spouse or Adult Interdependent Partner has this authority. As a result, simply speaking to others about your wishes is not enough.

By making a Personal Directive, you can gain greater control over your future. It allows you to choose who will make your personal decisions for you, if that is ever required. Also, you can use the Personal Directive to give guidance about the kinds of decisions you would want made. This will help your loved ones and caregivers feel more confident when making decisions for you.

The issue of capacity

If you use a lawyer

If you complete a Personal Directive with the help of a lawyer, the process includes a look at capacity.

Whenever a person goes to a lawyer’s office to sign documents, the lawyer conducts a test to ensure that the person understands what he or she is signing at that moment. The lawyer also conducts a test to help ensure that the person is not being forced to sign the documents.

However, a lawyer is not a doctor. The lawyer can only determine capacity at that very moment.

For example:

  • If the person has dementia and was having a “good” day, the lawyer would have no way of knowing this. The lawyer would see only the capable person that exists at that moment.
  • If the lawyer feels that the person in question does not have capacity at that moment, the lawyer will not allow that person to sign the document. Again, the lawyer can only assess that moment in time.

Lawyers do not sign any kind of medical documents indicating that the person has “lost” capacity. Also, if a lawyer refuses to let the person sign a document, that should not be taken as the final word about that person’s capacity in general.

If you do not use a lawyer

If you do not use a lawyer, there is no check for capacity included. For signing a Personal Directive, the law does not require that a person’s capacity be assessed.

If capacity is uncertain

If a person’s capacity is uncertain, that person should be tested by a medical professional. Contact his or her family doctor. You may also wish to learn about formal Capacity Assessments under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act: see the Caring for and Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page.

How they are completed

A Personal Directive must be in writing, and must be signed and dated in the presence of at least one witness. The witness will also sign and date the document.

When you sign the Personal Directive you are called the “Maker.” The person you name to make your personal decisions is called your “Agent.”

As long as the Maker still has capacity, he or she can revoke the Personal Directive and complete a new one.

For more information about making or revoking a Personal Directive, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

How they work

For a Personal Directive to come into effect, someone must first determine that you are no longer able to make your own personal decisions. This is done through a form called a “Declaration of Incapacity.” To officially deem a person “incapable,” this form must be filled out and signed by either one or two medical professionals (depending on what you said in your Personal Directive).

Unless you restrict your Agent’s powers in the Personal Directive, your Agent will be able to make almost any non-financial decision for you. This includes decisions about:

  • medical treatment,
  • housing,
  • who you associate with,
  • food,
  • hygiene,
  • clothing,
  • personal activities, and
  • safety.

Once a Personal Directive is in effect, it is no longer possible for the Maker to revoke it (unless the Maker regains capacity). If the Maker or someone else wants to have an Agent removed from power, he or she would have to apply file a complaint about the Agent to Alberta’s Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee. For more information about how to do that, see the Caring for and Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page.

The Personal Directive continues to apply as long as you remain incapable of making your own personal decisions, or unless a court orders that it ends. Your Agent’s powers end when you die. On your death, the “Personal Representative” that you named in your Will takes over all decision-making power.

Things to consider when choosing an Agent

General considerations

Things you may wish to consider when choosing an Agent include the following.

  • Will this person be available to do the job?
  • Does this person really know you and your needs?
  • Can you and this person communicate well?
  • Will this person respect and follow your wishes, even if it is a decision that they themselves would not make?
  • Can this person communicate well with others?
  • Will this person be able to manage conflict with others who may not agree with the decisions being made?
  • Is this person responsible enough to keep track of the decisions he or she made?
  • Has this person always treated you with respect?

For more information, see the following resources. These resources are from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Audio Who to choose and why.
Caregiving Matters
English
Note that in Ontario, a “Power of Attorney for Personal Care” is the same as a Personal Directive in Alberta.

Audio Appointing multiple people: Benefits and Pitfalls
Caregiving Matters
English

 

The risk of abuse

Although a Personal Directive is meant to be helpful, it can be used to abuse you. Your Agent has access to all of your personal information and will be making all of your personal decisions for you. He or she can use the position to control you, to treat you poorly, and to shut out other people that you might have wanted included. If abuse is suspected, it is often quite difficult to prove, as no one but the Agent has access to the information and documents around the decisions being made.

To help avoid this, you can include safety precautions. For example, you can:

  • Name one other person who has a right to access the information about the decisions being made for you.
  • Name more than one person as the Agent.
  • Require that your Agent “report” his or her decisions to someone else on a regular basis. This means that there is always at least one other person watching.

Naming more than one Agent

Do you want more than one Agent? If you do, you may want to think about:

  • how disputes will be resolved;
  • how tied decisions will be settled; and
  • which Agent should be the “spokesperson.”

You can include these requirements in your Personal Directive.

Make sure your Agent understands the job

Sometimes, Agents misuse a Personal Directive because they do not understand it properly. They may not realize exactly:

  • what they are allowed to do,
  • what they are required to do, or
  • what they must not do.

For example: many people do not know that Agents must keep track of the decisions they make. Before you appoint someone, make sure the person who will be your Agent understands what their obligations are.

For more detailed information on the role of an Agent, see the following resource.

PDF Being an Agent in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Things to consider when deciding whether to be an Agent

Before deciding whether or not to be an Agent, you should consider if you can do the job. Being an Agent creates a formal relationship that comes with legal duties.

If you have been asked to be an Agent, be sure to review the Caring for & Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page, which has detailed information about your role as an Agent.

If you do not make a Personal Directive

If you lose capacity without a Personal Directive, family members or other interested parties will have to make a Guardianship Application under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act to become your “Guardian.”

This court process can:

  • take a long time;
  • cost thousands of dollars;
  • result in disagreements and bad feelings among your loved ones; or
  • result in your Guardian being a person you would not have chosen for the job.

For more information about making a Guardianship application, see the Caring for and Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page.

The government does not generally step in as a Guardian. The government acts only in situations where no other suitable person is available, able, and willing.

More information

There are many rules about making and using Personal Directives, including:

  • who can be a witness;
  • who can sign for the Maker if the Maker cannot physically sign for himself or herself;
  • who can be an Agent;
  • what kinds of decisions an Agent cannot make; and
  • the exact duties of an Agent.

For more information about these and other important considerations when making a Personal Directive, see the following resources.

PDF Making a Personal Directive in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Capacity Matters: Elements of Legal Tools
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF La capacité importe-éléments des instruments juridiques
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
French

Web Wills, Personal Directives and Power of Attorney
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Personal Directives (Living Wills).”

Video Personal Directives
Government of Alberta
English

Audio/Web Personal Directives
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Personal directive | How it works
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Choosing Now for the Future: Personal Directives brochure
Government of Alberta
Chinese, English, French, German, Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog, Ukrainian

PDF Understanding Personal Directives booklet
Government of Alberta
Chinese, English, French, German, Punjabi, Spanish, Ukrainian

PDF Seniors and the Law: A Resource Guide
Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre
English
Start on p. 73.

PDF Guide juridique pour les personnes aînées du Nouveau-Brunswick
Association des juristes d'expression française du Nouveau-Brunswick
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. See p. 11-16.

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you a preview of the article, and you can find the full article at libraries across Alberta. Please note that this article is a section in a whole book. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Duties of Attorneys and Agents (article included in "48th Annual Refresher: Wills & Estates")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Get the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.
Tip

While you are planning for illness, it is also important to plan for death. The law around death is not always as people expect. For more information, see the Planning for Death Information Page.

Advance Care Planning & Goals of Care Designation

Advance Care Planning

Advance Care Planning (ACP) is a process to help you think about, talk about, and write down how you feel about your future health care treatment. It includes having ongoing conversations with your loved ones and health care providers. This will help them to know the kinds of treatment you would agree to, or refuse. Talking about ACP with your family members and loved ones may be hard, but understanding your wishes ahead of time will help them if you ever become ill. For them, it will help make a stressful time a little bit easier.

Although some of this kind of information can be included in your Personal Directive, ACP provides much greater detail about your wishes. It is an ongoing process. This helps to ensure that the Agent that you appoint in your Personal Directive will have the most up-to-date information about your beliefs, values, and wishes.

Advance Care Planning is also important for the time before your Personal Directive takes effect. If you are admitted to a hospital or other care facility, you will be asked to provide instructions about what level of care you want. This can be a very stressful moment. It is hard to think carefully and clearly when under such stress. It is even more stressful if you have never thought about the issues before. Being suddenly faced with such important and urgent decision-making will be difficult for both you and your loved ones.

For more information about ACP, see the following resources.

Web Advance Care Planning: Topic Overview
Government of Alberta
English
​​
Web What is Advance Care Planning?
Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association
English
​​
Web Advance Care Planning Glossary
Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association
English
​​
Web Advance Care Planning / Goals of Care Are Connected
Alberta Health Services
English
​​
Web Advance Care Planning: Conversations Matter
Government of Alberta
English
​​
Interactive Advance Care Planning
Alberta Health Services
English
​​
Web Make My Plan
Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association
English
​​
PDF Did you know? Advance Care Planning
Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association
English
​​
Web Frequently Asked Questions (about advance care planning)
Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association
English
​​
Web Advance Care Planning FAQ
Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association
English
​​
Web Advance Care Planning
Government of British Columbia
Chinese, English, Punjabi
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.​ See the “Brochures” section and choose “Aboriginal Health Advance Care Planning.” The link will automatically download onto your computer.

Videos

Video Advance Care Planning
Government of Alberta (via YouTube)
English
​​
Video Five Steps of Advance Care Planning
Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (via YouTube)
English
​​
Video Advance Care Planning: Videos
Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association
Chinese, English, French, Punjabi
​​
Webinar Previous Webinars
Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association
English
​​
Web Advance Care Planning
Fraser Health
Chinese, English, French, Punjabi
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.​ See “Videos.”

Goals of Care Designations

A Goals of Care Designation is a specific medical form used to describe the general aim or focus of medical care. It gives instructions that guide your doctor and health care team. The purpose of the Designation is to allow health care professionals to provide you with the care that best reflects your wishes and values, depending on your health condition at the time. When you or your Agent completes the Designation, you would generally look to what was documented in Advance Care Planning to help you decide what to choose.

However, when you require health care, a Goals of Care Designation will be completed even if you have never participated in Advance Care Planning. For example: if you get admitted into the emergency department, medical staff can write your Goals of Care Designation as a medical order after speaking with you about your wishes. This can happen whether or not you have ever done any Advance Care Planning.

You can change your Goals of Care Designation in the future if you want, or if your circumstances change.

For more information about Goals of Care Designations and the things to think about when making one, see the following resources.

Web Advance Care Planning: Goals of Care Designations
Government of Alberta
English

Web Advance Care Planning: Conversations Matter
Government of Alberta
English
​​
Video Goals of Care Designations
Government of Alberta (via YouTube)
English
​​
Web Advance Care Planning
Fraser Health
Chinese, English, French, Punjabi
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.​ See “Booklets and Brochures.”

For more information about completing a Goals of Care Designation, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Removing life support and doctor-assisted dying

A person may get an illness, or be in an accident, that leaves them facing a long and difficult process of dying.

In certain circumstances, the law may be able to help to with this.

  • Removing life support has been available for many years.
  • Doctor-assisted death is a new option that is still being developed.

What is the difference?

To understand your planning options, you need to know the difference between removing life support and doctor-assisted death.

An example:

  • Imagine a person with a very serious terminal illness. This illness will slowly kill the person. There is no cure. It is just a matter of time.
  • At some point, this illness will cause the person to be unable to breathe on his or her own.
  • Because of this and other effects of the illness, life will get very difficult and very painful.
  • At some point, this person will have to be hooked up to a machine in order to stay alive. This is called “life support.”

Removing life support

The removal of life support (sometimes also called “pulling the plug”) refers to the process of letting nature take over. If the person in the above example can no longer breathe on their own, they can be allowed to die. The machines that are keeping them alive can be turned off. Or, he or she may never be put on the machines in the first place.

In other words: it is only medical intervention that will keep the person alive. Without the medical intervention, he or she will die immediately, or very shortly. It can be decided that the medical intervention should not be given.

Doctor-assisted death

Doctor-assisted death works differently. This occurs when a doctor actively helps the person die. Assume that the person in the above example can still breathe on their own. Left alone, without any medical intervention, that person would continue to live. Possibly for weeks, months, or even years. But perhaps that person does not want to wait until they can no longer breathe on their own. They know that life will only become more and more painful and that death is unavoidable. They want to choose to die before the suffering becomes unbearable. They want to die at a time of their choosing, and on their own terms.

In other words: without medical intervention, the person will continue to live. It is only with medical intervention that the person will immediately die.

If the person still has capacity

If a person with capacity is on life support or considering doctor-assisted death, that person can decide for themselves what they want to have happen.

  • They can ask to be removed from life support. Similarly, they can include their wishes when completing a Goals of Care Designation.
  • They can ask about arranging doctor-assisted death. For information about this, see the “Doctor-assisted dying” section of the Planning for Death Information Page.

Planning in advance for life support issues

Sometimes, if a person is very badly injured, or becomes very sick, they reach a point where they can only continue to live because they are put on machines that keep them alive. For example: a person may be on a machine that does their breathing for them.

You can plan ahead for decisions relating to life support. There are several options to make sure your wishes are known. You can:

  • Tell your Supporter or Co-Decision-Maker, in case you are ever on life support and receiving help under a Supported Decision-Making Authorization or Co-Decision-Making Order.
  • Document your wishes in the Advanced Care Planning process.
  • Include your wishes in your Personal Directive.
Be Aware

These plans should not be included in the Will, as the Will only takes effect after death.

Planning in advance for doctor-assisted death

In Canada, it used to be illegal for doctors to help people end their own life (also called “commit suicide”). Under the Criminal Code of Canada, anyone who helped a person commit suicide could be charged with a crime. This included doctors.

However, in 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruled that this section of the Criminal Code was unconstitutional, and it decided that doctor-assisted death should be allowed in certain circumstances. To make sure the practice was safe and fully considered, the SCC gave the federal government until June 2016 to make new laws about this topic.

The changes to the Criminal Code became law on June 17, 2016. As a result, it is now legal for doctors and nurse practitioners to help people end their own lives, if they follow certain conditions and safeguards. This means that medical assistance in dying (MAID) is available in Canada.

However, to ask for MAID, the patient must have mental capacity at the time that the request is made. As a result, it is not possible to use a Personal Directive to plan in advance for MAID.

For more information about MAID in Alberta, see the "Doctor-assisted dying" section of the Planning for Death Information Page.

Organ and tissue donation

Part of planning for the future is thinking about organ and tissue donation. If there comes a time when you can no longer use your organs, and someone else could, you might wish to give that gift.

If you put your request in your Will, it may only become known after it is too late. So, to donate organs and tissue when you die, the law requires you to sign the necessary legal documents while you are still alive.

Be Aware

If you plan to donate your body to science, you cannot also donate internal organs. For more information, see the “Donating your body to science” section of the Planning for Death Information Page.

There are 3 ways to make your wish to be an organ/tissue donor known:

  1. You can sign the back of your Alberta health care card.
  2. You can register as a donor with the Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry.
  3. You can include your organ donation wishes in your Personal Directive.

You may wish to use all 3 of these options, which are explained in more detail below.

If you want to donate organs and tissue you can start by signing the back of your Alberta health care card. Your signature must also be witnessed. Most people always carry their health care card with them, so if you are near death and in the hospital, your wishes will be discovered while donation can still be arranged. Signing the back of your health care card will not affect your medical care. You will get whatever treatment you need, and every effort will be made to save your life before donation is even considered.

You can also sign up to be an organ and/or tissue donor on the Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry. Then health care professionals will know about your wish to donate, even if they do not have quick access to your health care card.

However, it is also important to include organ donation wishes in your Personal Directive. A Personal Directive is a document that gives someone else the legal power to make your personal decisions if you ever become unable to make those decisions for yourself. Personal decisions include health-related decisions. Putting your donation wishes in your Personal Directive is often helpful for family members and other loved ones. They may not have seen your health care card, or know that you signed the registry. They would feel more comfortable knowing for certain that making a donation is what you really wanted.

Also, when the time comes to make the decision, your family members and loved ones will be asked to answer medical and personal history questions as part of the donation screening process. They will also be asked to sign an organ and tissue donation consent form. If they disagree with the donation, they may refuse to answer important questions. This would make the donation impossible. As a result, it is a good idea:

  • to have your wishes be very clear in your Personal Directive, and
  • to talk to your loved ones about your wish to donate.
Be Aware

If a Personal Directive is in effect, the Agent(s) can only agree to donation if that Personal Directive contains clear instructions that allow the Agent(s) to do so. This is a requirement of section 15 of Alberta’s Personal Directives Act.

For more information about organ and tissue donation, see the following resources.


Web Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry
Government of Alberta
English


Web Becoming a Donor
Government of Alberta
English



Video Alberta Organ Donation – Sharing the Gift of Life
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English

For more detailed information about the process and requirements for donating organs, see the Caring for and Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page.

Powers of Attorney

What they are

A Power of Attorney is a document that gives another person the power to make financial decisions for you.

There are different kinds of Powers of Attorney:

  • An Immediate Power of Attorney takes effect immediately and ends at a specific date or after a certain decision has been made.
  • An Immediate and Enduring Power of Attorney takes effect immediately and continues if you become unable to make your own financial decisions.
  • An Enduring Power of Attorney (also called a “Springing Power of Attorney”) takes effect only when you become unable to make your own financial decisions.

In other words, a Power of Attorney is similar to the Personal Directive that is required for personal decisions. However, some kinds of Powers of Attorney can be used before incapacity. This is not possible with a Personal Directive.

Be Aware

A Power of Attorney does not cover personal or medical decisions. For that you need a Personal Directive: see the “Personal Directives” section above. Personal Directives and Powers of Attorney are separate documents with different requirements: they cannot be combined.

Who they are for

Powers of Attorney are important for every adult in Alberta who is planning for illness. This is because the law in Alberta does not allow another person to automatically make financial decisions for you if you lose the ability to do so yourself. Not even your spouse or Adult Interdependent Partner has this authority. As a result, simply speaking to others about your wishes is not enough.

By making a Power of Attorney, you can gain greater control over your future. It allows you to choose who will make your financial decisions for you, if that is ever required. Also, you can use the Power of Attorney to give guidance about the kinds of decisions you would want made. This will help your loved-ones feel more confident when making decisions for you.

Be Aware

Powers of Attorney do not work in the same way for Status Indians. For more information, see the “Aboriginal matters and on-reserve considerations” section below.

The issue of capacity

If you use a lawyer

If you complete a Power of Attorney with the help of a lawyer, the process includes a look at capacity.

Whenever a person goes to a lawyer’s office to sign documents, the lawyer conducts a test to ensure that the person understands what he or she is signing at that moment. The lawyer also conducts a test to help ensure that the person is not being forced to sign the documents.

However, a lawyer is not a doctor. The lawyer can only determine capacity at that very moment.

For example:

  • If the person has dementia and was having a “good” day, the lawyer would have no way of knowing this. The lawyer would see only the capable person that exists at that moment.
  • If the lawyer feels that the person in question does not have capacity at that moment, the lawyer will not allow that person to sign the document. Again, the lawyer can only assess that moment in time.

Lawyers do not sign any kind of medical documents indicating that the person has “lost” capacity. Also, if a lawyer refuses to let the person sign a document, that should not be taken as the final word about that person’s capacity in general.

If you do not use a lawyer

If you do not use a lawyer, there is no check for capacity included. For signing a Power of Attorney, the law does not require that a person’s capacity be assessed.

If capacity is uncertain

If a person’s capacity is uncertain, that person should be tested by a medical professional. For more information, contact the family doctor of the person in question. You may also wish to learn about formal Capacity Assessments under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act: see the Caring for and Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page.

How they are completed

A Power of Attorney must be in writing, and must be signed and dated in the presence of at least one witness. The witness will also sign and date the document.

When you sign the Power of Attorney you are called the “Donor.” The person you name to make your financial decisions is called your “Attorney.” Although the term “attorney” can also be used to refer to a lawyer (especially in the United States), an “Attorney” that is given decision-making power under a Power of Attorney is not the same thing as a lawyer.

As long as the Donor still has capacity, he or she can revoke the Power of Attorney and complete a new one.

For more information about making or revoking a Power of Attorney, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

How they work

For a Power of Attorney to come into effect, someone must first determine that you are no longer able to make your own financial decisions. Your Power of Attorney may say who will determine this. If it does not, the Powers of Attorney Act says that the decision will be made by 2 medical practitioners.

However, the Powers of Attorney Act does not provide a specific form to document the fact that you have lost capacity. Instead, you (or a loved one) can:

  • ask your doctor or your social worker if they have a form (some do, some do not);
  • ask a lawyer to create a form; or
  • use the Capacity Assessment Process under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act. For more information about the Capacity Assessment Process, see the Caring for and Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page.

In general, an Attorney’s powers can include:

  • paying bills;
  • depositing and investing money on your behalf; and
  • selling your property.

However, your Attorney cannot:

  • change your Will;
  • make a new Will for you;
  • make a new Power of Attorney on your behalf; or
  • use your property for other people (for example: gifts to others, or charitable donations) unless you specifically give them the power to do so.

Once a Power of Attorney is in effect, it is no longer possible for the Donor to revoke it (unless the Donor has capacity or regains capacity). If the Donor no longer has capacity, and someone else wants to have an Attorney removed from power, he or she would have to apply to the Court. For more information about that, see the Caring for and Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page.

An Immediate Power of Attorney ends at the date that is specified, or when the Maker loses capacity. An Enduring Power of Attorney continues to apply as long as the Donor remains incapable of making his or her own financial decisions, or unless a court orders that it ends. Your Attorney’s powers end when you die (at which point the “Personal Representative” that you named in your Will takes over all decision-making power).

Things to consider when choosing an Attorney

General considerations

Things you may wish to consider when choosing an Attorney include the following.

  • Will this person be available to do the job?
  • Does this person really know you and your financial needs and preferences?
  • Can this person handle money well?
  • Can you and this person communicate well?
  • Will this person respect and follow your wishes, even if it is a decision that they themselves would not make?
  • Can this person communicate well with others?
  • Will this person be able to manage conflict with others who may not agree with the decisions being made?
  • Is this person responsible enough to keep track of the decisions he or she made?
  • Has this person always treated you with respect?

For more information, see the following resources. These resources are from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Audio Powers of Attorney: Who to appoint
Caregiving Matters
English

Audio Who to choose and why.
Caregiving Matters
English
Note that in Ontario, a “Power of Attorney for Personal Care” is the same as a Personal Directive in Alberta.

Audio Appointing multiple people: Benefits and Pitfalls
Caregiving Matters
English

 

The risk of abuse

Although a Power of Attorney is meant to be helpful, it can be used to abuse you. Your Attorney has access to all of your financial information and will be making financial decisions for you. He or she can use the position to control you, to treat you poorly, to steal your money, and to shut out other people that you might have wanted included. If abuse is suspected, it is often quite difficult to prove, as no one but the Attorney has access to the information and documents around the decisions being made.

To help avoid this, you can include safety precautions. For example, you can:

  • Name one other person who has a right to access the information about the decisions being made for you.
  • Name more than one person as the Attorney.
  • Require that your Attorney “report” his or her decisions to someone else on a regular basis. This means that there is always at least one other person watching.

For more information, see the following resources.


Web Power of attorney: It’s easily abused
MarketWatch, Inc.
English
This is a private source. Learn more here. See “Taking steps against abuse.”


Web Preventing financial abuse under powers of attorney
The Sibling Fight
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Theft by Enduring Power of Attorney for Financial Affairs
Purvis Law
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Make sure your Attorney understands the job

Sometimes, Attorneys misuse a Power of Attorney because they do not understand it properly. They may not realize exactly:

  • what they are allowed to do,
  • what they are required to do, or
  • what they must not do.

For example: many people do not know that Attorneys must keep track of the decisions they make. Before you appoint someone, make sure the person who will be your Attorney understands what their obligations are.

For more detailed information on the role of an Attorney, see the following resource.

PDF Being an Attorney under an Enduring Power of Attorney
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Things to consider when deciding whether to be an Attorney

Before deciding whether or not to be an Attorney, you should consider if you can do the job. Being an Attorney creates a formal relationship that comes with legal duties.

If you have been asked to be an Attorney, be sure to review the Caring for & Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page, which has detailed information about your role as an Attorney.

If you do not make an Enduring Power of Attorney

If you lose capacity without a Power of Attorney, family members or other interested parties will generally have to make a Trusteeship Application under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act to become your “Trustee.”

This court process can:

  • take a long time;
  • cost thousands of dollars;
  • result in disagreements and bad feelings among your loved ones; or
  • result in your Trustee being a person you would not have chosen for the job.

For more information about making a Trusteeship application, see the Caring for and Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page.

The government does not generally step in as a Trustee. The government acts only in situations where no other suitable person is available, able, and willing.

More information

There are many rules about making and using a Power of Attorney, including:

  • who can be a witness;
  • who can sign for the Donor if the Donor cannot physically sign for himself or herself;
  • who can be an Attorney; and
  • the exact duties of an Attorney.

For more information about these and other important considerations when making a Power of Attorney, see the following resources.

PDF Making an Enduring Power of Attorney
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF General Powers of Attorney
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Enduring power of attorney | How it works
Government of Alberta
English


PDF Capacity Matters: Elements of Legal Tools
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF La capacité importe-éléments des instruments juridiques
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
French

Web Wills, Personal Directives and Power of Attorney
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Power of Attorney.”

Audio/Web Enduring Powers of Attorney
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Audio/Web Powers of Attorney
Calgary Legal Guidance
English


Video Special Powers of Attorney
Kahane Law Office
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

PDF Seniors and the Law: A Resource Guide
Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre
English
Start on p. 87.

PDF Guide juridique pour les personnes aînées du Nouveau-Brunswick
Association des juristes d'expression française du Nouveau-Brunswick
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. See p. 11-16.
Tip

While you are planning for illness, it is also important to plan for death. The law around death is not always as people expect. For more information, see the Planning for Death Information Page.

Informal trusteeships

What they are

An informal trusteeship is a way for you to give someone else the power to act for you in some financial matters. It is “informal” because there is no requirement to keep track of and report the decisions that are made, and there is no need to involve the court system. Often it is less time-consuming and less expensive than other legal options.

In general, informal trusteeships are offered at government departments and government-related agencies. For example: the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) or Old Age Security (OAS). They are intended as an easy solution for people whose financial situation is not very complicated. For example:

  • Bob’s only income is CPP and OAS.
  • Every month Bob uses his income from CPP and OAS to pay his bills.
  • Bob does not have any other financial assets that need to be managed.
  • With an informal trusteeship at both CPP and OAS, someone else can cash Bob’s cheques and pay his bills.

Although they are similar to Powers of Attorney, informal trusteeships do not work in exactly the same way. They do not use a “global” approach, where all types of financial decisions can be covered in one document. Instead, a separate informal trusteeship would need to be set up at every agency or government department that allows for these arrangements. Each informal trusteeship is only valid at the individual agency or government department. The paperwork, and the exact rules about how they work, is different for each agency or government department.

Be Aware

Not every agency or government department allows informal trusteeships.

Who they are for

People who have lost capacity

In general, informal trusteeships are meant for people who:

  • have lost the capacity to make their own financial decisions,
  • do not have an Enduring Power of Attorney in effect,
  • do not have much income and property to manage, and
  • have finances that are not complicated enough to be worth the trouble of getting a Trusteeship Order from the court.

For more information about Trusteeship applications, see the Caring for and Decision-Making for an Adult Information Page.

People with diminished financial capacity

Sometimes adults still have capacity, but would benefit from the help of a person they trust when completing financial transactions (such as banking and paying bills). However, under Alberta law, there are no formal options for “a bit of help” with financial decisions prior to incapacity. This means that for financial decisions, there is nothing like supported decision-making or co-decision-making (as described above). In other words, for financial issues, there is not really a “continuum” of capacity: you either have capacity, or you do not.

Because of this, if an adult needs some help and really can’t deal with financial issues on their own, the only alternatives available to them under Alberta provincial law are to either:

  • bring an Enduring Power of Attorney into effect (if that adult signed a Power of Attorney), or
  • become the subject of a Trusteeship Order (if that adult did not sign a Power of Attorney).

If either of these things happen, Alberta law deems that the person has lost capacity for all purposes. As a result, supported decision-making and co-decision-making will no longer be available to them.

However, if that adult has informal trusteeships in place to help deal with their financial matters (and therefore does not start to use an Enduring Power of Attorney or Trusteeship Order), they can still use supported decision-making or co-decision-making for their personal decisions.

For this reason, people who have diminished capacity sometimes use informal trusteeships to get help with their financial issues while keeping some control of their personal decisions.

Be Aware

Informal Trustees actually have a great deal of financial decision-making power—far more than the power given under supported decision-making or co-decision-making. Specifically, if you have an informal trusteeship at an organization, as far as that organization is concerned, you have lost capacity to deal with your assets at that organization. As a result, that organization may not be willing to take any kind of instructions from you anymore.

The issue of capacity

The agencies, organizations, and government departments that allow informal trusteeships will generally ask for a medical certificate, signed by a doctor, that indicates that the person in question has lost capacity (or has diminished capacity).

How they are completed

To set up informal trusteeships, you must contact each agency or government department separately and fill in each of their forms. Each organization will have its own forms. Often, each organization will have 2 separate forms:

  • a medical form, signed by a doctor, that indicates that the person who needs help has lost capacity (or has diminished capacity); and
  • a form in which the person who will be the Informal Trustee agrees to properly administer the money.
Be Aware

Once the informal trusteeship is in place, the agency or government department will likely only follow the directions of the Informal Trustee unless you provide medical proof of capacity. Also, informal trusteeships are not governed by a single law, so each agency or department will handle them differently. This can make it difficult to make a complaint if you have trouble with the arrangement.

How they work

Once the paperwork is completed, the person named as the “Informal Trustee” can make decisions on behalf of the person in question. However, the Informal Trustee can only deal with the asset or benefit related to the particular organization or government department with whom they signed the paperwork. Unlike with a Power of Attorney, an Informal Trustee cannot sell your property, deal with your investments, handle your bank accounts, or sign contracts on your behalf.

Things to consider when choosing an Informal Trustee

General considerations

Things you may wish to consider when choosing an Informal Trustee include the following.

  • Will this person be available to do the job?
  • Does this person really know you and your financial needs and preferences?
  • Can this person handle money well?
  • Can you and this person communicate well?
  • Can this person communicate well with others?
  • Will this person be able to manage conflict with others who may not agree with the decisions being made?
  • Has this person always treated you with respect?

The risk of abuse

Even though an Informal Trustee’s powers are limited, he or she can still have quite a lot of financial control. For example: some people only have government pension income (such as the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security). If the Informal Trustee controls the money from both of these plans, then he or she has full control of that person’s income. If your Informal Trustee has a great deal of control over your financial situation, he or she can use the position to control you, treat you poorly, steal your money, and shut out other people that you might have wanted included.

If abuse is suspected, it is often quite difficult to prove, as no one else has access to the information and documents around the decisions being made. Also, it may be very difficult to get permission for anyone else to speak to the organization or government department about your situation, even if it is to report potential abuse.

To help avoid this, you may wish to consider some safety precautions. For example:

  • Name one other person who has a right to access the information about the decisions being made for you.
  • If possible, you may wish to name more than one person as the Informal Trustee.
  • If the organization or government department allows for it, you can require that your Informal Trustee “report” his or her decisions to someone else on a regular basis. This means that there is always at least one other person watching.

Make sure your Informal Trustee understands the job

Sometimes, Informal Trustees misuse an Informal Trusteeship because they do not understand it properly. They may not realize exactly:

  • what they are allowed to do,
  • what they are required to do, or
  • what they must not do.

Before you appoint someone, make sure the person who will be your Informal Trustee understands what their obligations are.

Things to consider when deciding whether to be an Informal Trustee

Before deciding whether or not to be an Informal Trustee, you should consider if you can do the job. Being an Informal Trustee creates a formal relationship that comes with legal duties.

If you have been asked to be an Informal Trustee, be sure to review the Caring for & Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page, which has detailed information about your role as an Informal Trustee.

More information

For more information about informal trusteeships, see the following resources.

Web Informal trusteeship | How it works
Government of Alberta
English

Web What is informal trusteeship?
Estate Law Canada
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

 

Family Violence

 

PDF Elder Abuse: Planning Ahead
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF L'abus fait aux aîné-e-s : Planifier à l'avance
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
French

 

Tip

While you are planning for illness, it is also important to plan for death. The law around death is not always as people expect. For more information, see the Planning for Death Information Page.

Joint property

What it is

The term “property” means both:

  • “personal” property, such as bank accounts or vehicles; and
  • “real property,” such as land, a house, or a condominium.

When 2 or more people own all of an asset together, that property is “joint property.” You can also say that the property is held in “joint tenancy.” The people who own it are called “joint tenants.”

Joint tenancy is a special legal concept that results in all of the joint tenants owning all of the property. When 2 people own something in joint tenancy, they both own all of it (not just their “share.”) They each have the right to deal with all of it, any time they want (although sometimes there can be additional legal steps required).

For example, if you and your child have a joint bank account, your child has the right to remove all of the money from the account without saying anything to you about it. That would be perfectly legal. Your child also could have the bank statement sent to him or her instead of you, or choose to have the statements emailed instead. If that occurs, you may never know what is going on with your bank account. Also, a joint tenant can force the sale of your property while you are still alive (even if that is not what you want).

If there are 2 joint tenants and one dies, the other joint tenant becomes the sole owner of the property. The property would not pass through the deceased’s Will, even if they wanted it to.

Be Aware

“Joint property” is very different from “tenancy in common” (which is another way that 2 or more people can hold property). With “tenancy in common,” 2 or more people own an asset together, but each owns only a portion. For example: land. Under tenancy in common, each of the tenants owns a portion (or share) of the value of the land. Each tenant can only deal with his or her share of the property. Similarly, if one of the tenants in common dies, that person’s portion does not automatically go to the other owner(s). Instead, that portion goes through the Will of the deceased. For more information, see the following resource.

Web What happens when a tenant-in-common dies?
Estate Law Canada
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Who is it for

Joint property is a way for one joint tenant to help the other joint tenant with his or her finances and financial decision-making. When people are expecting health issues, it can be an easy way to get “help.” For example: joint bank accounts. At any time, either joint tenant can make deposits, withdrawals, or payments from the account.

Other kinds of property can also be in joint names. For example: joint land such as a house or a condo. This allows for another person (the other joint tenant) to handle issues related to the land.

The issue of capacity

For a person to transfer property into joint names, he or she must have capacity. However, the law does not require that capacity be tested first. Also, the organizations involved (such as banks or the Land Titles Office) do not ask for proof of capacity.

How it is completed

To transfer property into joint names, the property owner must fill out certain paperwork. Each organization (such as a bank or the Land Titles Office) will have its own paperwork for completing this process. Each asset also has its own set of paperwork. For example, if you have a chequing account and a savings account with the same bank, you would need to fill out separate paperwork for each account. The asset will then be transferred into joint tenancy, and all of the joint tenants will own all of the property.

Things to think about before becoming a joint tenant

Joint tenancy can seem like an easy way to get help with managing financial affairs, but it has huge risks. Because of how a joint tenancy works, it can leave you very vulnerable to abuse.

We generally trust our loved ones, but sometimes we can be wrong to do so. Anyone might be tempted to take advantage of the situation: it is so easy to simply “borrow” a little money.

If you place a lot of your money and assets into joint names, your joint tenant will have a great deal of control over your financial situation. He or she can use the position to control you, treat you poorly, steal your money, and shut out other people that you might have wanted included.

For example, a joint tenant could try to force a sale of the property. If your joint tenant thinks it would be best to sell the home, but you don’t want to, the joint tenant can apply to the court to force a sale of the house. A court could grant that request, even if you disagree. No matter who “wins” in court, the financial and emotional results could be devastating.

Joint property can also be at risk for claims against either of the joint tenants. So, if your joint tenant goes bankrupt or gets involved in a matrimonial property claim, the value of your joint property may be used to pay for debts or the claims. You may not have any choice.

If abuse is suspected, it is often quite difficult to prove, as no one else has access to the information and documents around the decisions being made. Also, it may be very difficult to get permission for anyone else to speak to the bank or other organization about your situation, even if it is to report potential abuse.

To help avoid this, you can:

  • Think carefully about whether you are right to trust this other person. Have they always treated you well?
  • If possible, you may wish to name more than one person as a joint tenant.
  • Look into whether joint tenancy really is the best option for you. You can ask the bank or your lawyer if they have other suggestions.
Be Aware

Being a joint tenant has serious legal consequences, both during your life and after. Before you transfer property into joint names, be sure you understand the rights and powers of joint tenants and be sure that is what you really want. Consider getting legal advice.

More information

For more general information about joint tenancy, see the following resources.

PDF General Powers of Attorney
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 13-14.

Web Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common?
Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.


Web Joint Property Ownership: Problems and Pitfalls
Advisor Group
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Joint tenancy
Legal Line
English

For information about using joint tenancy in your estate planning, see the following resources.

Web Shared Ownership of Property
Seniors First BC
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Joint Ownership
RV Law
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Joint Accounts and Survivorship Rights
Advisor Group
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web The Trouble With Joint Bank Accounts
Huffington Post Canada
English


Web Pros and cons of adding kids to the title similar to the pros and cons of catching the flu
Estate Law Canada
English
This resource is from a private source. Learn more here.

Web Adding someone to the title of your house may be the easiest mistake you'll make
Estate Law Canada
English
This resource is from a private source. Learn more here.

Web Should I add my child's name to the title of my house to avoid tax in the future?
Estate Law Canada
English
This resource is from a private source. Learn more here.

Web Joint tenancy as an estate planning tool – Pros and cons
Beacon Law Centre
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web The Pitfalls of Joint Tenancy
R. Trevor Todd
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Financial Abuse: The Ways and Means
Canadian Centre for Elder Law
English
Start on p. 16.

PDF The Hazards of Joint Tenancy
Salvador Davis & Co., Notaries Public
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you an overview of the resource, and you can find the full text at libraries across Alberta. For more information about using these libraries, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

French resources



Web Compte conjoint
Government of Canada
French
Tip

While you are planning for illness, it is also important to plan for death. The law around death is not always as people expect. For more information, see the Planning for Death Information Page.

Planning for different kinds of property

If you become ill, the people who take care of you and make decisions for you may have to deal with your property. This can include managing the property. It might even involve using or selling the property if funds are needed to care for you. For example: your Attorney may need to cash in some of your investments, or sell your home. As a result, you will need to understand how different kinds of property are treated under other laws (such as tax law).

It also important to make sure that the people who are helping you know what you have planned for your property upon your death. For example: you may wish to leave an heirloom to a particular person. As a result, you would prefer for that heirloom not to be sold unless absolutely necessary.

For more information about these issues, see the “Planning for different kinds of property” section of the Planning for Death Information Page. Although that information is written for people planning for their property when they die, it can also apply when you are planning for your property during illness or incapacity.

Illness in the digital age

Every day, most people in Canada send multiple emails, both at work and at home. Similarly, every day millions of Canadians log onto their Facebook and Twitter accounts to check their newsfeeds. In other words, Canadians have embraced online communication.

The law, on the other hand, has not yet caught up. In particular, the question of “digital assets” remains unclear. When internet users lose capacity, they often have sensitive personal information online, or online accounts that family members and friends may want to access or close.

Digital assets are a person’s electronic possessions, including virtual property such as:

  • emails,
  • digital photos,
  • videos,
  • tweets,
  • texts,
  • music,
  • e-books, and
  • online account information for websites or programs such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, bank accounts, store accounts, PayPal, and any others.

Digital assets can have a financial value. For example, an online tool or website may make money or cost the owner something. Or, digital assets may only have sentimental value. For example, the photos of a family member.

In Canada today, there is very little law about maintaining digital assets if something happens to the owner or account holder. As a result, the rules that govern who can use or deal with another person’s digital assets are usually just those found in the “Service Agreements” that users must agree to when setting up those accounts. Many of those agreements do not state what happens if the account holder becomes incapacitated or dies. Also, most of them do not have an option of naming a personal representative for that asset. For those service agreements that do deal with it, the policies and procedures are different for every account.

This can make it difficult when trying to plan ahead. This is especially true given that section 342.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada makes it a crime to use a computer service when you know that you are not authorized to do so.

For more information about steps you can take to protect your digital assets if you become ill, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Tip

Because there is very little law in this area, Agents and Attorneys may want to consider getting legal advice before attempting to access a person’s digital assets.

For more information about digital assets, see the following resources. Many of these resources talk about how to plan for your digital assets after you die, but the same concepts apply when planning for illness or incapacity.

Web How to plan your digital estate
TVA Publications
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Presentation Understanding Digital Assets: Practical Approaches to Estate Planning and Administration
Alexander Holburn Beaudin + Lang LLP
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web What Happens to my Facebook When I Die?
McConnan Bion O'Connor & Peterson
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Managing digital assets – Preserving your social media legacy
Clark Wilson LLP
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Failure to plan for your digital assets can have consequences
AdvocateDaily.com
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Estate Planning In The Digital Age
Siskinds Law
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Prudent Estate Planning in the Digital Age
Snedden Hall & Gallop Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Digital life after death: Practice tips for estate planning and administration
Fillmore Riley LLP
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Digital Assets: Overlooked and Underappreciated
Fiduciary Trust Canada
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Forgetting Digital Assets Like Facebook Can Create Lawsuits After Your Death
Forbes Media
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For detailed reports about how Canadian lawyers and courts have addressed this issue, see the following resources. These reports can be a challenge to read. Learn more here.


Transportation

For some people, planning for illness only involves thinking about a time in the future. However, sometimes dealing with an illness is more urgent (for example: if an illness has just been diagnosed). In such cases, making choices about your decision-making options may partly depend on how easily you can move around on your own, including whether or not you can still drive your car.

For more information, continue reading below and see the following resource.

PDF Let's Talk About Aging: Aging Well in Alberta
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 38.

Motor vehicle laws and safety

Driving a motor vehicle is a privilege, not a right. Alberta Transportation must balance individuals’ transportation needs and the public’s right to road safety. One of the ways that road safety is ensured is by monitoring drivers’ skills, safety records, and medical conditions.

As you age and/or become ill, you may no longer be able to drive, or be allowed to drive. Many people do not think of this possibility and are unprepared when it happens. If you currently drive, you may wish consider what you will do if you can no longer drive in the future.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Under Alberta law, all drivers, regardless of age, are legally required to report any medical conditions that may affect their ability to drive safely.
  • For licence renewals (classes 5, 6, or 7), a medical report signed by your doctor is required at: 75 years, 80 years, and every two years after 80 years.
  • Some medical conditions that may affect your driving include: vision changes, hearing loss, arthritis, diabetes, stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.

For more information, see the following resources.

PDF Information for Mature Drivers
Government of Alberta
English

Web Driver Fitness and Monitoring
Government of Alberta
English

Other transportation options

If you are too ill or too frail to drive, there may be other options available to you, depending on where you live.

Most urban areas have public transit. In some areas, public transport for people with disabilities may be low cost or even free. For examples in Calgary and Edmonton, see the following resources.

Web Calgary Transit Access
City of Calgary
English

Web Disabled Adult Transit Service (DATS)
City of Edmonton
English

Web Resources Related to Transportation
Alberta Council on Aging
English

Some towns and cities have volunteer organizations that provide transportation. To ask about such services in your area, contact your local town council or seniors’ centre. Although not all people with serious illnesses are seniors, seniors’ organizations are usually well-informed about the services available in their area.

PDF Directory of Seniors' Centres in Alberta
Government of Alberta
English

There are also private companies, such as taxi companies, that provide transportation. To find them you can look in the Yellow Pages or ask for search help at your local library.

Housing options

For some people, planning for illness only involves thinking about a time in the future. However, sometimes dealing with an illness is more urgent (for example: if an illness has just been diagnosed). In such cases, making choices about your decision-making options may partly depend on:

  • where you currently live,
  • what your living arrangements may look like in the future, and
  • the kind of care you are able to receive in those housing options.

As a result, you may want to understand your housing options and the care and benefits you may be able to arrange. For a checklist of things to consider about housing, see the following resource.

PDF Let's Talk About Aging: Aging Well in Alberta
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 22.

For information about planning for long-term care in Canada, see the following resources.


Web Legends, myths and nursing homes
Caregiving Matters
English

For more detailed information, see the “Housing options” section of the Caring for & Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page.

The Protection for Persons in Care Act

As you plan for illness, you may be concerned about the safety of moving into a care facility.

It is important to understand that people who are receiving publicly funded services that support their physical or mental health are protected from abuse under Alberta’s Protection for Persons in Care Act (PPCA).

For more information about this protection, see the “The Protection for Persons in Care Act” section of the Caring for & Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page.

Employment-based benefits

For some people, planning for illness only involves thinking about a time in the future. However, sometimes dealing with an illness is more urgent (for example: if an illness has just been diagnosed). In such cases, making choices about your decision-making options may partly depend on your financial situation. For example: informal trusteeship may not even be an option with the kind income you have. As a result, it is important to understand some common illness-related income options.

Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit

The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Disability Benefit is the largest long-term disability insurance program in Canada. CPP disability benefits provide monthly financial assistance to CPP contributors who are not able to work regularly because of a “severe” and “prolonged” disability.

  • Severe means that you have a mental or physical disability that regularly stops you from doing any type of substantially paying work.
  • Prolonged means your disability is likely to be long-term, last indefinitely, or result in death.

If you qualify, your dependent children can also get benefits if they are under 18 years old, or if they are full-time students and under 25 years old.

For more information about CPP disability benefits, see the following resources.

Web Canada Pension Plan disability benefits
Government of Canada
English

Web Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit - Overview
Government of Canada
English

Web Disability benefits
Government of Canada
English



Web CPP-Disability Benefits
Durham Community Legal Clinic
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.


 

French resources



Web Prestations d'invalidité
Government of Canada
French

 

Be Aware

Choosing to apply for a CPP disability benefit instead of waiting until later to apply for your regular CPP benefit can have serious financial consequences. You may wish to consider getting legal advice. For more information, see the following resources.

Web CPP disability benefit versus early retirement pension
RetireHappy.ca
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.
PDF Pension Plan Issues with Progressive Disability
Parkinson Society British Columbia
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Employer disability insurance

If you were employed at the time the illness began, and if you have disability insurance through your employer, you may qualify for benefits under that plan. Each plan is different and the exact benefits depend on the terms of the plan. To find out what benefits might be available to you, contact your employer.

Workers’ Compensation Board insurance

Sometimes, an illness or disability is the result of an accident that happened at work. In Alberta, there is insurance that can help with that, as many employers are covered by the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB). Workers insured by the WCB are eligible to receive benefits for work-related injuries, no matter who caused the injury.

However, your employer may not have WCB insurance. It is not required for all employers, and will depend on the kind of job you had.

For more information, contact your employer or the WCB, and see the following resources.

Web Did you know?
Workers' Compensation Board - Alberta
English

Web Workers' Compensation Board - Alberta
Workers' Compensation Board - Alberta
English

PDF WCB-Alberta Worker Handbook
Workers' Compensation Board - Alberta
English
Government benefits & assistance: An introduction

For some people, planning for illness only involves thinking about a time in the future. However, sometimes dealing with an illness is more urgent (for example: if an illness has just been diagnosed). In such cases, making choices about your decision-making options may partly depend on the kind of care and financial assistance that you are able to receive. As a result, it is important to know about some basic assistance programs.

General benefits

When you become ill, you may qualify for various kinds of government benefits and assistance. The kinds of assistance available to you may depend on:

  • your age;
  • your living arrangements; and/or
  • your income.

For detailed lists of public benefits and assistance in Alberta, see the following resources.

Web Health services in Alberta
Government of Alberta
English

Web Continuing Care
Government of Alberta
English

Web Pensions and retirement
Government of Alberta
English

PDF When I'm 64: Benefits for Seniors
People's Law School
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

You can also contact Alberta Supports, which will give you information about programs offered by the government of Alberta.

Tip

If you have Home Care, you can ask your case manager about benefits and programs that may be available. Programs change all the time: your case manager will have the most up-to-date information.

The federal government also has various kinds of benefits. See the following resource for a tool to find what benefits you might be eligible for.

Interactive Benefits Finder
Government of Canada
English

There are also non-governmental organizations that can help. Some are for-profit, some are non-profit. To find out about these organizations and programs, you can:

  • Search on InformAlberta, which lists social service agencies across Alberta:

  • Contact your local seniors’ centre. Although not all people with serious illnesses are seniors, seniors’ organizations are usually well-informed about the services available in their area.

PDF Directory of Seniors' Centres in Alberta
Government of Alberta
English
  • Contact the organizations that raise awareness about your illness, if there are any. These organizations may have more information about illness-specific services that are available.

For more information about some common government benefits and assistance available for people with illnesses and for seniors, including those who still live in their own home, see the Caring for & Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page.

Alberta Health Advocates

Alberta’s health system is complex and people don’t always find or receive the care they need. The Office of the Alberta Health Advocates is a place where Albertans can come for advice and help in dealing with their health issues.

There are 3 Advocates:

  1. Health Advocate, who helps people navigate the general health system.
  2. Mental Health Patient Advocate, who can help people kept in hospitals under mental health certificates and people under community treatment orders to understand and exercise their rights and resolve concerns. The Advocate will also help people acting on behalf of such individuals.
  3. Seniors’ Advocate, who helps seniors, their families, and their caregivers navigate the health care system and continuing care system. The Office provides information on support programs and services for seniors.

You do not have to know which Advocate you need before calling or writing. The Office will help you figure that out as well.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Health Advocate
Office of the Alberta Health Advocates
English

Web Mental Health Patient Advocate
Office of the Alberta Health Advocates
English

Web Office of the Seniors Advocate
Government of Alberta
English
Aboriginal matters and on-reserve considerations

For Aboriginal families living off-reserve, and whose property is all off-reserve, all of the laws described above apply.

For Aboriginal families who live on-reserve and/or have property on-reserve, most of the laws described above apply. However, the federal Indian Act will also apply, and the Indian Act rules and requirements might even trump the provincial rules. If the Indian Act applies to you, this will mean big differences for you when planning for illness.

Some of these situations are described below.

Incapacity & Powers of Attorney

When dealing with property during incapacity, the Indian Act has rules that are different from Alberta’s general provincial law.

Specifically, section 51 of the Indian Act gives Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) the authority to step in to deal with property issues if the Aboriginal person:

  • is a registered Indian or entitled to be registered;
  • is “ordinarily resident” on-reserve; and
  • has been declared mentally incompetent according to provincial law.

This authority overrides a Power of Attorney. INAC may use your Power of Attorney as evidence of your wishes, but it will not determine who will be appointed as administrator of your property.

Instead, INAC will offer the job of administrator of the property to family members. To be considered for this role, a family member must apply to be appointed by INAC. As a result, if you live on-reserve, you may wish to contact INAC to determine the process to have someone appointed as administrator of your property in case you lose capacity. Until a person has been appointed, INAC has the same powers and responsibilities as an Attorney named in a Power of Attorney. If no family members are willing to take on the job, INAC will contact Alberta’s Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee to take on the job.

Aboriginal families on-reserve must also consider any band laws or requirements. For more information about specific bands, see the following resource.

Web First Nations in Alberta
Government of Canada
English

Web Premières nations de l'Alberta
Government of Canada
French

Personal Directives and other help with personal decisions

The Indian Act does not address Personal Directives and other kinds of help with personal decision-making. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada will not step in to deal with your health matters.

Advance Care Planning

Many Aboriginal cultures view dying and death as a natural part of our life cycle with ceremonies and rites marking them. As a result, Aboriginal people may want to use traditional medicines, Elders, and healers for end-of-life ceremonies.

If you have specific cultural health care choices, you can write them down. You should share these plans with the people you are asking to make health care decisions on your behalf, and any others so they can help perform your ceremonial wishes.

However, sometimes cultural needs can conflict with rules and policies at a care facility. For example, a nursing home may have rules against smoking in the building. This rule may mean it will be difficult to have a smudging ceremony if you live there.

Before choosing a care facility, you may wish to ask if staff have worked with Aboriginal people before or if they have training in cultural sensitivity. You may also wish to ask about any policies they have about the spiritual and cultural needs of the residents.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web First Nations Resources
Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association
English

Web Advance Care Planning
Government of British Columbia
Chinese, English, Punjabi
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. See the “Brochures” section and choose “Aboriginal Health Advance Care Planning.” The link will automatically download onto your computer.
Blended family considerations

In Alberta, the law around planning for illness is no different for blended families than it is for any other families. Your issues and options will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

However, although the law is the same, the family issues around planning for illness may be much more complicated. For example: if you are remarried, you may wish for your new spouse to have decision-making ability. Your children from your first marriage may not be happy with such an arrangement. For this reason you may want to consider having careful discussions with family members as part of your planning. You can also have a counselor, mediator, or lawyer help with these discussions. For more information about these options, see the following Information Pages.

For more information about blended family matters, see the following resources.

Web When Chronic Illness Strikes the Blended Family
Burzynski Elder Law
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

The following resources are not available online. The links below will give you a preview of the articles, and you can find the full articles at libraries across Alberta. Please note that these articles are sections within books. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Blended Family Dynamics: Effectively Handling the Cocktail (article included in "48th Annual Refresher: Wills & Estates")
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Get the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.

For information about updating your planning documents after separation or divorce, see the following resources.

Web Important to update your estate plan after divorce
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Changing your Estate Plan after separation
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.
LGBTQ considerations

In Alberta, the law around planning for illness is no different for LGBTQ families than it is for any other families. Your issues and options will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

Unfortunately, LGBTQ families sometimes still face social stigmas, homophobia, transphobia, discrimination, and misunderstanding. If the individual or couple is not “out” to extended family members, there can be additional misunderstanding and conflict about who should have the right to make decisions.

As a result, it is especially important to have legal documents that identify the nature of the relationship and that these documents be clear and specific.

Similarly, if you are an LGBTQ person who is looking into options for care facilities, it is important that you learn about their attitudes and understanding of LGBTQ issues.

Polyamorous relationships

In Alberta, much of the law around planning for illness is no different for polyamorous families than it is for any other families. Your issues and options will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

However, polyamorous families sometimes still face social stigmas and difficulties that other families may not. Extended family members may not know about or understand the polyamorous relationships. This can lead to conflict about who should have the right to make decisions. As a result, it is especially important to have legal documents that identify the nature of the relationships and that these documents be clear and specific.

For more information, see the following resource.

Web Polyamory and Power of Attorney
Polyamory on Purpose
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Concerns for immigrants and other non-citizens

Regardless of your immigration status in Canada, the law around planning for illness is the same. Your issues and options will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

However, if the proposed decision-maker or any property is outside of Canada, there may be additional challenges. For more information, see the Ongoing Family Relationships & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

If one of the parties is involved in criminal proceedings

In Alberta, the law around planning for illness is no different for families where one of the parties is involved in criminal proceedings than it is for any other families. Your issues and options will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

However, you may not wish appoint someone who is in prison as your personal decision-maker, as it would be difficult for him or her to do that job. Also, someone having trouble with the law might not be able to access your property to make financial decisions.

Process

Learn more about how to plan ahead for illness or capacity, including:

  • Getting a Capacity Assessment
  • Arranging organ and tissue donation
  • Making arrangements in case you cannot make your own decisions in the future, including supported decision-making and co-decision-making
  • Taking part in Advance Care Planning and a Goals of Care Designation
  • Making or revoking a Personal Directive
  • Making or revoking a Power of Attorney
  • Creating informal trusteeships
  • Transferring property into joint names

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here

Last Reviewed: July 2016
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page contains information about the processes related to planning for illness. This Information Page is for:

  • adults who want to plan for a time when they will no longer be able to take care of themselves, or make decisions for themselves; and
  • adults who are already ill and may need formal “help” making decisions, even if they can still make most decisions for themselves.
Be Aware

This Information Page deals only with adults planning for their own illness, or other adults’ illnesses. For information about making decisions for a person under the age of 18, see the Having a Child: Legal Considerations and Government Benefits Information Page and the Children’s Rights Information Page.​

Tip

If you are just starting out with this topic, it’s a good idea to begin on the Law tab of this Information Page. There you will find basic information about what the law says, what the words mean, and other issues that will help you understand better what to ask for and how to get it. Once you have the basics down, you will be in a better position to learn about the process you need to follow to plan for illness.​

In general, the processes described on this Information Page are for people who live in Alberta. This is because in order for Alberta law to apply the people affected should live in Alberta. If a court in any other province, territory, or country has already made an order in your case, or if a move has occurred or is planned, please see the Ongoing Family Relationships & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

You are currently on the Process tab of this Information Page, which has information about the processes you need to follow in order to plan for illness. For information on the law about planning for illness, click on the Law tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

Finding a lawyer or other legal help

For information about how to find a lawyer that can help you write your planning documents, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

For other legal resources in your community that may be able to help, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

In addition, the following organizations may be able to help with decision-making arrangements.

Web Civil Law
Legal Aid Alberta
English

PDF Seniors and the Law: A Resource Guide
Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre
English
Start on p. 121.

Web Application help
Government of Alberta
English

Web Personal Decision Making Assistance
Kerby Centre
English

Web Guardianship Services
Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton
English
Getting capacity assessed

The law might not require that capacity be assessed before the person can sign a legal planning document.

For the legal decision-making options discussed on the Law tab of this Information Page, only co-decision-making requires the formal Capacity Assessment Process (CAP).

The formal Capacity Assessment Process (CAP) is not required in order to complete:

  • Supported Decision-Making Authorizations;
  • Personal Directives;
  • Advance Care Planning;
  • Goals of Care Directives;
  • Powers of Attorney;
  • informal trusteeships; or
  • transfers into joint property.

However, you can use the CAP with other decision-making options, if you want to. Sometimes people choose to use the CAP, even if they do not have to, as it provides a thorough medical assessment of a person’s decision-making abilities. This can be especially helpful if there is any dispute between loved ones about whether the adult in question has capacity.

When documents are completed with a lawyer

Whenever a person goes to a lawyer’s office to sign documents, the lawyer conducts a test to ensure that the person understands what he or she is signing at that moment. The lawyer also conducts a test to help ensure that the person is not being forced to sign the documents.

In general, lawyers do this with Powers of Attorney and Personal Directives. If you are completing another planning document, you can ask your lawyer whether he or she is able to do something similar to assess the capacity of the person signing the document.

However, a lawyer is not a doctor. The lawyer can only determine capacity at that very moment.

For example:

  • If the person has dementia and was having a “good” day, the lawyer would have no way of knowing this. The lawyer would see only the capable person that exists at that moment.
  • If the lawyer feels that the person in question does not have capacity at that moment, the lawyer will not allow that person to sign the document. Again, the lawyer can only assess that moment in time.

Lawyers do not sign any kind of medical documents indicating that the person has “lost” capacity. Also, if a lawyer refuses to let the person sign a document, that should not be taken as the final word about that person’s capacity in general.

Formal Capacity Assessments under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act

In Alberta, the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act (AGTA) provides a formal method of determining whether or not a person has lost capacity. It is called the “Capacity Assessment Process” (CAP). This process:

  • sets very specific and consistent testing standards;
  • focuses on the kinds of decisions that the adult needs to make; and
  • evaluates the level of assistance required.

The Capacity Assessment must be completed by a doctor, psychologist, or other health care professional specifically trained to be a “Capacity Assessor.” Capacity Assessors must meet professional standards, have specific training, and receive continuing education.

The Capacity Assessor will only look at the types of decisions where assessment is needed. For example, there may be no concerns about how the adult chooses his or her social activities, but there is concern about the adult’s ability to make health care decisions. In this situation, the Capacity Assessor would only assess the adult’s ability to make health care decisions.

For the legal decision-making options discussed on the Law tab of this Information Page, only co-decision-making requires the CAP. The CAP is also used for the other legal options under the AGTA (see the Caring for and Decision-Making for a Family Member Information Page). However, a person could use the CAP any time a decision about capacity is required.

For more information about the CAP, see the following resources.


PDF The Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act - Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

A list of Capacity Assessors and the forms you will need are in the following resources.

Web Find a capacity assessor | How it works
Government of Alberta
English

Web List of capacity assessors
Government of Alberta
English

Web Guardianship & Trusteeship: Forms
Government of Alberta
English
Arranging organ and tissue donation

For information about how to register on the Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry, see the following resource.

Web Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry
Government of Alberta
English
Supported decision-making

Completing a Supported Decision-Making Authorization

The “Supported Decision-Making Authorization” form is in the following resource.

Web Supported Decision-Making Authorization (Form 1)
Government of Alberta
English
The form linked on this web page only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

The parties do not need to complete any kind of capacity assessment, and they do not apply to a court.

When completing Supported Decision-Making Authorization, be sure you know if you want to cancel (“revoke”) any previous Supported Decision-Making Authorizations.

  • If you want to revoke a previous authorization, you will need to complete the part of the form above that states this.
  • However, you may not want to revoke a previous Supported Decision-Making Authorization. For example, if you have a Supported Decision-Making Authorization with a specific person for a specific purpose that you want to keep in place. If that is the case, you will need to be clear about which Supporter has which powers.
Tip

If you are the person needing help and you are signing a Supported Decision-Making Authorization, you may also want to consider completing a Personal Directive and a Power of Attorney, if you have not yet done so. At the moment, you still have capacity and can still complete these documents. If you lose capacity, you will no longer be able to make a Personal Directive and a Power of Attorney and your family will have to apply in court for Guardianship and Trusteeship under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act.

Ending a Supported Decision-Making Authorization

The parties to a Supported Decision-Making Authorization can end the Authorization at any time. For more information and the form you will need to do this, see the following resource.

Web Supported Decision-Making Authorization (Form 1)
Government of Alberta
English
The form linked on this web page only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.
Co-decision-making

Getting a Co-Decision-Making Order

Co-decision-making is completed by getting a court order. However, this does not mean that a court appearance will always be required. Often, you can do it with a “desk application” instead. A desk application allows the parties to get a court order without having to appear in court.

For co-decision-making, if the case is straightforward with nothing to be argued, you can apply by submitting the appropriate paperwork to a Review Officer at the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee. The Review Officer then completes a separate report on the application and files the application with the Court of Queen’s Bench. If the Court is satisfied with the information, the Court can grant the Order. However, the Court or a concerned adult can still request a hearing to decide the matter.

The application forms require a great deal of information and detail, and may take weeks to process. Also, the person needing the help must have his or her capacity assessed through the Capacity Assessment Process (CAP) required by the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act (AGTA). For information about this process, see the “Getting capacity assessed” section above.

For more information about the process of applying for co-decision-making, see the following resources.

PDF The Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act - Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

The application package for co-decision-making is available below. The forms required for the capacity assessment are included in the application package.

Web Become a co-decision-maker
Government of Alberta
English
See “Step 3.”

Web Guardianship & Trusteeship: Forms
Government of Alberta
English
See “Co-decision-making.”

Tip

If you are the person needing help and you are applying for a Co-Decision-Making Order, you may also want to consider completing a Personal Directive and a Power of Attorney, if you have not yet done so. At the moment, you still have capacity and can still complete these documents. If you lose capacity, you will no longer be able to make a Personal Directive and a Power of Attorney and your family will have to apply in court for Guardianship and Trusteeship under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act.

Ending a Co-Decision-Making Order

As long as the Assisted Adult still has capacity, he or she can apply to end the Co-Decision-Making Order at any time. So can the Co-Decision-Maker. This is done by applying to the Court. The forms you will need are in the following resource.

Web Guardianship & Trusteeship: Forms
Government of Alberta
English
See “Co-decision-making.”

Making a complaint about a Co-Decision-Making Order

It is possible to lodge a complaint with the Court about a Co-Decision-Maker. The forms you will need are in the following resource.

Web Guardianship & Trusteeship: Forms
Government of Alberta
English
See “Co-decision-making.”

Getting help with Co-Decision-Making forms

If you need help applying for co-decision-making, there are places that can help for free. See the following resources for contact information in your area.

Web Application help
Government of Alberta
English

Web Personal Decision Making Assistance
Kerby Centre
English

Web Guardianship Services
Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton
English
Making or revoking a Personal Directive

Making a Personal Directive

A template and instructions for writing a Personal Directive can be found in the following resources.

Web Write a personal directive
Government of Alberta
English


PDF Personal Directive (Form OPG 5521)
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Directive personnelle
Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta
French

You do not have to use this template: you can create your own Personal Directive. If you do so, be sure you understand all of the requirements. You can also hire a lawyer to write a Personal Directive for you.

When making a Personal Directive, be sure you know if you want to cancel (“revoke”) any previous Personal Directives.

  • If you want to revoke a previous Personal Directive, you will need to say so very clearly in your new Personal Directive.
  • However, you may not want to revoke a previous Personal Directive. For example, if you have a Personal Directive that appoints a specific person to be the Agent on one specific topic. Or if you have a similar document in another jurisdiction. For example, if you spend your winters in Arizona, you may have a similar document in that state that you want to keep in case something happens to you while you are there. If that is the case, you will need to be clear about which Personal Directive you are not revoking, and ensure the powers to do not overlap.

If you have minor children, you will want to consider who should take care of those children while the Personal Directive is in effect. This decision will also need to be included in a Power of Attorney, which is the document that would deal with the financial issues related to caring for those children. For more information, see the following resource.

Web Where Are Your Children Going to Go?
Huffington Post Canada
English

For more information about the process of making a Personal Directive, including all of the requirements, see the following resources.

PDF Making a Personal Directive in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF Choosing Now for the Future: Personal Directives brochure
Government of Alberta
Chinese, English, French, German, Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog, Ukrainian

If you need help making a Personal Directive, there are places that can help for free. See the following resources for contact information in your area.

Web Application help
Government of Alberta
English

Web Personal Decision Making Assistance
Kerby Centre
English

 

Remember

Before you appoint someone, make sure the person who will be your Agent understands what their responsibilities are. For detailed information on the role of an Agent, see the following resource.

PDF Being an Agent in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

 

Tip

If you are making a Personal Directive and have not yet completed a Power of Attorney, you may wish to consider doing so. If you reach the point where you can no longer make personal decisions for yourself, you will likely also not be able to make financial decisions for yourself. Your Personal Directive is only for personal decisions. To have someone make financial decisions for you, you will need a Power of Attorney.

Registering a Personal Directive

Once you have completed your Personal Directive, you can register it with the Alberta government. This makes sure that your medical records show that you have a Personal Directive and who your Agent is.

Web Register a personal directive
Government of Alberta
English

Revoking a Personal Directive

To revoke a previous Personal Directive, you can write a new one and simply include in it that you are revoking that previous Personal Directive. See the following resource for more information.

PDF Making a Personal Directive in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 13.

PDF Understanding Personal Directives booklet
Government of Alberta
Chinese, English, French, German, Punjabi, Spanish, Ukrainian
See p. 15.


PDF Personal Directive (Form OPG 5521)
Government of Alberta
English

Bringing a Personal Directive out of effect

Sometimes a person who lost capacity later regains capacity. If this occurs, the Agent or medical staff can take the Personal Directive out of effect. The exact forms that are required depends on the circumstances. For information about which forms you will need, see the following resource.

Web Guardianship & Trusteeship: Forms
Government of Alberta
English
See “Personal Directive.”
Taking part in Advance Care Planning

You can start Advance Care Planning (ACP) by thinking about it on your own, or having a conversation with your loved ones or your family doctor. It is always a good time to start Advance Care Planning. It’s important to start talking about your wishes before you have a health crisis.

First steps for thinking about it on your own are summarized in the following resource.

Web Advance Care Planning: Think About...
Government of Alberta
English

There are also workbooks that can help you with the process in the following resources.

Interactive Advance Care Planning Workbook
Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association
English

Interactive Advance Care Planning
Alberta Health Services
English

However, it is not enough to think about it on your own. A key part of ACP is the conversations you have with your family, loved ones, and health care professionals. Then, the decisions you reach must be written down. When medical treatment is required, both your loved ones and health care staff will want to see your ACP documents so that they know what you would have wanted them to do.

Your wishes and beliefs may change over time. Be sure to keep conversations going to help make sure that everyone knows your current wishes. It is also important to keep a written record of any changes.

To help make sure that your wishes are recorded and known, Alberta Health Services provides plastic “Green Sleeves” for you to keep your ACP documents together. A Green Sleeve can also hold your Goals of Care Designation, your Personal Directive, and your Power of Attorney. You can get one from your doctor. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Advance Care Planning: Conversations Matter
Government of Alberta
English
See “Your Green Sleeve.”

Completing a Goals of Care Designation

In a Goals of Care Designation, health care is divided into 3 general categories:

  1. medical,
  2. resuscitative, and
  3. comfort.

Within each category there are sub-topics. For more information about what each of these categories means, see the following resource.​

Web Advance Care Planning: Goals of Care Designations
Government of Alberta
English

A copy of the Goals of Care Designation Order is in the following resource. Remember, this is the order that will be completed and used by a doctor when treating you. You do not need to fill out this form—it is only for your information.

PDF Goals of Care Designation (GCD) Order
Alberta Health Services
English

For more information about the things to think about when making a Goals of Care Designation, see the following resources.

Web Advance Care Planning: Goals of Care Designations
Government of Alberta
English
​​
Web Advance Care Planning: Conversations Matter
Government of Alberta
English
​​
Video Goals of Care Designations
Government of Alberta (via YouTube)
English
​​
Web Advance Care Planning
Fraser Health
Chinese, English, French, Punjabi
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. See “Booklets and Brochures.”

To help make sure that your wishes are recorded and known, Alberta Health Services provides plastic “Green Sleeves” for you to keep your Goals of Care Designation. A Green Sleeve can also hold your Advance Care Planning documents, your Personal Directive, and your Power of Attorney. You can get one from your doctor. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Advance Care Planning: Conversations Matter
Government of Alberta
English
​​
Making or revoking a Power of Attorney

Making a Power of Attorney

In Alberta, there is no standard form for a Power of Attorney. You can create your own. If you do so, be sure you understand all of the requirements. You can also hire a lawyer to write a Power of Attorney for you. A Power of Attorney must be in writing, and must be signed and dated in the presence of at least one witness. The witness will also sign and date the document.

When making a Power of Attorney, be sure you know if you want to cancel (“revoke”) any previous Powers of Attorney.

  • If you want to revoke a previous Power of Attorney, you will need to say so very clearly in your new Power of Attorney.
  • However, you may not want to revoke a previous Power of Attorney. For example, if you have a Power of Attorney at a bank that you want to keep in place. Or, if you have a Power of Attorney in another province that you want to keep for dealing with property in that other province. If that is the case, you will need to be clear about which Powers of Attorney you are not revoking, and ensure the powers to do not overlap.

If you are making an Enduring Power of Attorney and you have minor children, you will want to consider who should take care of financial arrangements for those children if you lose capacity. This decision will also need to be included in a Personal Directive, which is the document that would deal with the care and control those children. For more information, see the following resource.

Web Where Are Your Children Going to Go?
Huffington Post Canada
English
Be Aware

Before 1996, the law required that a Power of Attorney be accompanied by a “Certificate of Legal Advice.” This is no longer the case. However, because it is still a requirement in other provinces, your bank may insist on seeing a “Certificate of Legal Advice” before it accepts the Power of Attorney. If you are being helped by a lawyer, you may want to ask for such a Certificate to save yourself from difficulties later on.

For more information about the process of making a Power of Attorney, including all of the requirements, see the following resources.

PDF Making an Enduring Power of Attorney
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF General Powers of Attorney
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Enduring power of attorney | How it works
Government of Alberta
English
Family Violence

 


Web Concerns over Power of Attorney Abuse
All About Estates
English

Web Financial elder abuse is on the rise
Estate Law Canada
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

If you need help writing a Power of Attorney, there may be some organizations that can help for free. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Elder Law Program
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

PDF Directory of Seniors' Centres in Alberta
Government of Alberta
English

 

Remember

Before you appoint someone, make sure the person who will be your Attorney understands what their responsibilities are. For detailed information on the role of an Attorney, see the following resource.

PDF Being an Attorney under an Enduring Power of Attorney
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

 

Tip

If you are writing a Power of Attorney and have not yet completed a Personal Directive, you may wish to consider doing so. If you reach the point where you can no longer make financial decisions for yourself, you may no longer be able to make personal decisions for yourself either. Your Power of Attorney is only for financial decisions. To have someone make personal decisions for you, you will need a Personal Directive.

After the Power of Attorney is made

Once your Power of Attorney is written and signed, there is no need to register it anywhere. The parties can each keep a copy of the document and present it as required.

Revoking a Power of Attorney

To revoke a previous Power of Attorney, you can write a new one and simply include in it that you are revoking that previous Power of Attorney. See the following resource for more information.

PDF Making an Enduring Power of Attorney
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 13.

Web How do I revoke my Enduring Power of Attorney?
Estate Law Canada
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Wills, Personal Directives and Power of Attorney
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Power of Attorney.”

Bringing a Power of Attorney out of effect

Sometimes a person who lost capacity later regains capacity. If this occurs, medical staff could sign a document that states that the person has regained capacity, which would bring the Power of Attorney out of effect.

However, the Powers of Attorney Act does not provide a specific form to document the fact that you have regained capacity. Instead, you (or a loved one) can:

  • ask your doctor or your social worker if they have a form (some do, some do not);
  • ask a lawyer to create a form; or
  • use the Capacity Assessment Process under the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act.
Informal trusteeships

Creating informal trusteeships

To set up informal trusteeships, you must contact each agency or government department separately and fill in each of their forms. Each organization will have its own forms. Often, each organization will have 2 separate forms:

  • a medical form, signed by a doctor, that indicates that the person who needs help has lost capacity (or has diminished capacity); and
  • a form in which the person who will be the Informal Trustee agrees to properly administer the money.

For links to the forms used by the most common agencies and government departments, see the following resource.

Web Informal trusteeship | How it works
Government of Alberta
English
Tip

If you are creating informal trusteeships and have not yet completed a Personal Directive or a Power of Attorney, you may wish to consider doing so. You may need those documents in the future and once capacity is lost, it will be too late to create them.

Ending informal trusteeships

Each organization will have its own forms to end an informal trusteeship. You must contact each organization.

Transferring property into joint names

Joint tenancy can seem like an easy way to get help with managing financial affairs, but it has huge risks. We generally trust our loved ones, but sometimes we can be wrong to do so. Anyone might be tempted to take advantage of the situation: it is so easy to simply “borrow” a little money.

If you place a lot of your money and assets into joint names, your joint tenant will have a great deal of control over your financial situation. He or she can use the position to control you, treat you poorly, steal your money, and shut out other people that you might have wanted included.

 

Remember

Placing property in joint tenancy has serious consequences both during the life of the joint tenant and if one of the tenants dies. Before transferring your property into joint names, consider getting legal advice.

To transfer money held at a bank or other financial institution into joint names, you must contact that bank or financial institution: each one has its own specific forms.

To transfer land into joint names, you must use an Application for Transfer of Land.

PDF Application for Transfer of Land
Government of Alberta
English

For information and instructions about what to do with this application, contact the Land Titles Office.

Web Contact Land Titles
Government of Alberta
English
Dealing with digital assets

When planning for illness, there are a few things you can do to plan for your digital assets. Some examples are listed below.

Keep a current list of passwords to your various digital assets for your Agent and Attorney, and let them know where to find that list. However, this must be done with care. Remember that passwords are like keys to your online services. If they are stolen you may be vulnerable to theft, identity theft or other forms of abuse.

Make sure that your Agent and Attorney know about the issues around digital estates. If they don’t, you may want to consider appointing a different person (or people) to help manage your digital assets.

Back up sensitive and sentimental data onto additional storage, either online or on an external hard drive. This can allow the Agent and Attorney to access copies of important information (like an email account). Then they may not have to try to get that information from the company itself.

For more information about making such lists and other steps you can take when dealing with digital assets, see the following resource.

Presentation Understanding Digital Assets: Practical Approaches to Estate Planning and Administration
Alexander Holburn Beaudin + Lang LLP
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Tip

Because there is very little law in this area, Agents and Attorneys may want to consider getting legal advice before attempting to access a person’s digital assets.

Dealing with driver fitness and monitoring

For information about steps to take to deal with driver fitness and monitoring, see the following resource.

Web Driver Fitness and Monitoring
Government of Alberta
English

To report concerns about driver fitness, see the following resource.

Web Reporting Concerns About Driver Fitness
Government of Alberta
English
Applying for employment-based benefits

Getting employment-based disability benefits

If you were employed at the time the illness began, and if you have disability insurance through your employer, you may qualify for benefits under that plan. Each plan is different and the exact benefits depend on the terms of the plan. To find out what benefits might be available to you, contact your employer.

Applying for the Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit

For information about applying for the Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit, see the following resources.

Web Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit - Overview
Government of Canada
English
See Steps 4 and 5.

Web Prestation d’invalidité du Régime de pensions du Canada – Aperçu
Government of Canada
French
See Steps 4 and 5.

For more information about the application process, see the following resource.

PDF CPP Disability
Disability Alliance BC
English

If you apply for a CPP disability benefit and are denied, you can appeal the decision. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit - Overview
Government of Canada
English
See Step 6.


Web Social Security Tribunal of Canada
Government of Canada
English


PDF CPP Disability
Disability Alliance BC
English
Be Aware

Choosing to apply for a CPP disability benefit instead of waiting until later to apply for your regular CPP benefit can have serious financial consequences. You may wish to consider getting legal advice. For more information, see the following resources.​

Web CPP disability benefit versus early retirement pension
RetireHappy.ca
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

PDF Pension Plan Issues with Progressive Disability
Parkinson Society British Columbia
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF When I'm 64: Benefits for Seniors
People's Law School
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Applying for Workers’ Compensation

To apply for workers’ compensation, you must first report your injury or illness to the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB). Once you have done so, a WCB-Alberta adjudicator will review your claim. Your adjudicator will determine if your claim meets legal requirements and policy requirements. He or she will contact you, your doctor, or your employer if more information is required to reach a decision.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web The claims process: For workers
Workers' Compensation Board - Alberta
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PDF WCB-Alberta Worker Handbook
Workers' Compensation Board - Alberta
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