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Thursday, May 7, 2020

Don't assume you know the answer to a legal dilemma

Often, my office receives calls from members of the public who ask the price of Enduring Powers of Attorney, wills, guardianship or other services. We certainly welcome those calls, but in most cases the callers don't reveal why they want the item they are requesting. My staff, as the recipients of the calls, have to assume that the customers know what they need.

Yesterday an assistant in my office took a call from a potential customer who had asked the price of getting an Enduring Power of Attorney prepared for a family member. Because she went on to ask about the logistics of having the document signed in extremely challenging circumstances, the call was put through to me. I asked the caller why she wanted the Enduring Power of Attorney for her family member and she said she had been told by personnel at his care facility that it was needed. I then asked her to describe for me why it was needed - what assets the family member owns, what financial arrangements needed to be made, etc.

As it turns out, the family member has nothing but a CPP pension that needs to be received and then used to pay bills.

An Enduring Power of Attorney is not needed in this case. All the caller needed was to fill in forms for CPP and arrange for her to be registered with CPP as her family member's limited trustee. If we had simply quoted her a price, she would have hired us or some other lawyer to prepare an Enduring Power of Attorney and attempt to jump a dozen or more extraordinary hurdles to get it signed. And that is assuming we were able to establish mental capacity for a person whose illness renders him without speech and who can only sign with an X.

In any event, I found the form online while speaking with the caller and put it in the mail to her. It cost her nothing. It was a simple solution already available.

This is why I have many times on this blog encouraged readers to talk to their lawyers about what they are trying to accomplish - the goals, needs, and challenges. Rather than go in assuming you know the answer to a legal question and assuming you know the available solutions already, be prepared to hear other possible ways of dealing with things. Tell the whole story. It just might save you a lot of money and a lot of frustration.

There is another take-away for readers here too. That is, don't accept legal advice from people who are not lawyers.

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