When does not spending $150.00 cost you more than $6,000.00?Ian Whiting
Six years ago, Al went to see his lawyer. A widower in his late 70s, Al had been advised to update his Will after his wife Gloria had passed away. He thought this made sense and off he went. The lawyer did his job properly and professionally and the new Will has duly prepared and signed.
Al and Gloria had 3 children – 2 daughters and a son. The eldest daughter (a single parent) Tracey had a daughter named Cheryl. Tracey sadly had passed away shortly after her mother from cancer and Cheryl was left on her own, is now living on the fringes of society and is rarely in touch with other members of the family. Al’s other daughter is Tess and she ended up leading a very challenging life filled with drugs, alcohol, one abusive husband and a series of less-than-ideal boyfriends and live-in partners. She also has had to deal with significant emotional and intellectual challenges and her only source of legitimate income is a tax-free disability pension from the government. She currently lives (rent free) in Al’s residence because Al is no longer legally competent and is in an extended care facility. She says she stays there so she can be close to Al but the reality is she is sponging off Al since he can’t do anything about it and Tess, challenges aside, knows a good deal when she finds one. Her boyfriend-du-jour spends his time dealing soft-drugs and working part-time as a mechanic.
The son, Bruce, got involved off-the-grid very early in life and now in his mid-50s, is a hard-drug addict, has AIDS and lives and feeds his own habits by stealing (including from Al) and selling drugs. He disappeared in mid-2013 and hasn’t been seen or heard from since that time but he did take Al’s debit card and emptied Al’s account to the tune of over $8,000 over 4 weeks. He was living with Al before he went into care for the onset of dementia and Al trusted him with his card – and unsurprisingly, this trust was betrayed.
And NO, I am not making up his situation – just the names – the circumstances are exactly as described – unfortunately.
When Al had his Will re-done, the lawyer and Al’s financial advisor told him he needed to establish an Enduring Power of Attorney for personal care, property management and healthcare. Al agreed, but he never took this step because he didn’t feel he could name either of his surviving children – Tess and Bruce – or his grand-daughter Cheryl, and with good reason. But now…
Since Al is no longer legally competent the problem rises. Who makes his decisions and manages his property? What about his investments, his pension income, his personal assets, the level of care that can be afforded? Bruce can’t be found, Tess is not capable and the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee would fight any attempt by her to be named a guardian. Cheryl is not appropriate either, even if we could locate her. So now what? Fortunately Al’s financial advisor is also a friend and stepped up to apply to be appointed as his Committee in court, with Al’s and Tess’ agreement and the support of the OPGT.
Once the Committee process started, a cousin of Al’s (named Jeff) was located and has joined the application as a co-Committee to act jointly with the advisor. Al is very lucky to have two people willing to take on this task of managing his personal, financial and health care affairs – but the cost of applying for Committeeship has now exceeded $6,000.00 and is not finalised yet – and this cost will come from Al’s assets as part of standard Court rulings in cases such as this.
Al knew his advisor and friend and cousin Jeff would have agreed to be joint-attorneys and guardians if he had only asked and redone the rest of the documents. But Al didn’t want to impose and didn’t want to burden them with the unique circumstances of his family. Admirable thoughts of course, but now the reality of avoiding that decision has hit home, all for the sake of about $150.00 six-years ago.
Are your plans for personal, financial and healthcare up-to-date AND properly documented?