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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act

As of a month ago, Alberta has a new law which replaces the Dependent Adults Act. This will be of interest to people who are caregivers for seniors who have not put Enduring Powers of Attorney and Personal Directives in place.

The new Guardianship and Trusteeship Act has a different focus than the old act. The old act basically said that if you can't make your own decisions, someone can be appointed by the court to do that for you. In other words, it was all or nothing. The new act is based on the idea that mental capacity is a continuum and that any given person can be at any place on that continuum. Because of this idea, the help available to an individual can be in various forms based on how much help is needed.

Specifically, under the new act, a helper can be one of the following:

  • a supported decision-maker who helps the senior make personal decisions. The decisions are made with the senior, not for the senior. The legal authority is given to the helper by the senior, who signs an authorization document. This was not available under the old act.
  • a co-decision-maker who helps the senior with personal decisions, but who is appointed by the court. This wasn't available under the old act either, though many court-appointed guardians did try to accommodate the wishes of the senior.
  • a court-appointed guardian, who makes decisions for the senior. This is the option that gives the helper the most control over the affairs of the senior.

Note that help with financial decisions hasn't changed much in theory from the old act, in the sense that trusteeship is still all or nothing.

There are new forms, of course, for preparing the documents. Those of you who bought my book "Protect Your Elderly Parents" will soon be able to use the link provided on the CD to download (at no cost) the updated forms. I'm working on them as we speak!

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