When Ontario residents create their estate plans, they are often encouraged to include powers of attorney that appoint someone trustworthy to make decisions for them if they become incapacitated due to an illness or injury. For people who do not yet have an estate plan, this protection does not exist. This is where a guardian comes into play.
Unfortunately, family members of Ontario residents may experience health issues that cause a substantial decline in mental capacity. When this happens, an individual will more than likely no longer be able to make sound decisions for him or herself. Such an individual is vulnerable to unscrupulous people, including other relatives, who would take advantage of his or her mental incapacity. Another person may need to step in, take control and protect the incapacitated person.
If you find yourself caring for a loved one in this position, you will need the legal authority to make decisions on his or her behalf. With powers of attorney, the transition could happen quickly and seamlessly. However, if no power of attorney exists, then you will need to establish a guardianship, which must be done through the courts. While this may not be the preferred method, it exists in order to protect vulnerable individuals when necessary.
It may seem obvious that an individual needs assistance, but the courts hesitate to grant guardianships without first going through certain steps in order to ensure that the vulnerable person will end up with the best possible guardian. In addition, the incapacitated person loses certain rights, so it is important to make sure it is necessary and that the person appointed is the best one to handle the person’s affairs. Considering what is at stake, it would probably be a good idea to consult with a lawyer before moving forward.