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Friday, July 3, 2009

How to use a court order that appoints you as a trustee for an adult

Most people who are appointed by the courts as a trustee for an adult person enlist the help of a lawyer to make the court application and get the Order that appoints them. This is commonly done where a parent is losing mental capacity and has not prepared an Enduring Power of Attorney. But once you've got the court Order in place, are you confident that you know how to use the Order properly? Here are some tips for getting started as a court-ordered trustee:

1. File the Order at the court. If you used a lawyer, this will be done as part of the service you pay for.

2. Read the Order to find out when it comes into effect. If no date is specifically stated on the Order, you can assume it comes into effect on the day the judge signed it.

3. Read the Order to find out if there are any deadlines you have to meet, such as dates for renewing your application or reporting to the court about your activities as trustee.

4. Serve copies of the Order on anyone who is by law entitled to be served. Again, if you used a lawyer this might have been done. Make sure you ask whether the lawyer has done this.

5. In many parts of Canada, a newly-appointed trustee has to file an inventory of the assets and liabilities of the person for whom they are acting as trustee. There is usually a 6-month period allowed for this to be done.

6. Talk to each place of business at which you will be representing the person for whom you act as trustee. The places of business might include banks, investment houses, property tax departments, Canada Revenue Agency, land titles office etc. Find out whether you have to give them a notarial copy (stamped by a notary public) or a certified copy (stamped by a clerk of the court) of the Order that appoints you. Never give any of them the original court Order.

7. Read the provincial or territorial act that governs your Order so that you know what you are supposed to do, and what you are not supposed to do. Many well-intentioned trustees get into legal trouble by accidentally exceeding their legal authority.

8. Set up your record-keeping in a way that you can and will sustain over a long period of time.

These tips are summarized from Chapter 14 of my book called "Protect Your Elderly Parents", which gives quite a bit of detail of each of these steps. The book explains how to set up your record keeping and reconcile your accounts. It tells you who needs to be served with copies of the Order in each province and territory. It shows you exactly how to set up your inventory, what to include and how to arrive at the right monetary values.

Even if you have used a lawyer to get your court Order, a book like this one gives you plenty of help understanding what to do once the lawyer's part of the work is complete and you are on your own to act as trustee.

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