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Estate planning update: Change may be coming to power of attorney

Periodically, the laws of the land come under review to ascertain whether they still meet the needs of the population. This includes many areas, including criminal law, family law and estate law. The Law Commission of Ontario has recently issued a report detailing recommended changes to systems in place for substitute decision-making that could have an impact on estate planning.

According to the Executive Director of the Commission, the systems pertaining to powers of attorney have remained largely unchanged since the late 1980s. He believes there are opportunities to streamline the system and bring it up-to-date. Toward that end, the report details 58 recommended changes.

The power of attorney is seen as an area of much confusion for many people. The Commission's findings indicate attorneys are often uncertain of their legal obligations, and have trouble understanding the process of accessing information. Some of the recommendations address increased education and support for attorneys.

For example, one suggestion is that any person granted power of attorney should be required to forward notification of their position to certain designated people, including bankers and lawyers. It was also suggested that an official monitor be appointed to oversee attorneys. This person would ensure lawyers are administering their duties correctly and appropriately.

Any measure that would assist those who are given power of attorney over another would certainly be welcome. At any time, a person who wishes to grant a power of attorney, or a person to whom it has been granted, can turn to an estate lawyer for help. An experienced Ontario lawyer can use his or her knowledge to assist with this important aspect of estate planning.

Source: citynews.ca, "Law Commission of Ontario report urges changes to power of attorney systems", Michelle McQuigge, March 8, 2017

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