A Personal Directive is Part of a Complete Estate Plan
What if you lost the mental capacity to make your own decisions? Do you know who will step in to help manage your health and personal matters?
No one can predict the future but having a Personal Directive (PD) will help protect you and give you a say on your care in the event that you become mentally incapacitated through injury, age or illness.
What is a Personal Directive?
A Personal Directive is one of the pillars of a complete estate plan that also includes an Enduring Power of Attorney, which gives someone you trust the authority to make financial decisions for you when you no longer can, and a Will, which administers your estate after you die. The Province of Alberta recommends residents over the age of 18 have all three.
Those you choose to be your voice are called agents and while they have the responsibility ensuring your wishes are respected, they cannot legally control your finances. You must designate a Power of Attorney if you want someone to manage your business and finances.
What happens if You Don’t Have a Personal Directive?
Agents may act or make decisions about your medical treatments, living arrangements, recreation, education and employment activities and may assist with other personal or legal non-financial decisions.
If you fail to get a Personal Directive, you are losing the ability to control your future. A healthcare provider may be able to choose one of your relatives from a ranked list to make decisions on medical issues. Creating a PD ensures the person who will make your decisions is someone who has agreed in advance to do it.
As well, without a Personal Directive, your family could be forced to go to court to get the correct documentation to act on your behalf if you are unable, which can take time and can be costly.
How Does a Personal Directive Work?
A PD allows you to plan and prepare for various situations that affect your well being. You may name an agent in your Personal Directive to:
- act when you lose mental capacity, either short term or long term; or
- act temporarily until you are able to make your own decisions again.
The instructions for your wishes can address such issues as where you will live, care of your children if they are minors, or what medical procedures you will allow. However, those instructions cannot include anything illegal.
It is important to note that a Personal Directive must be prepared while you are mentally capable. You have to be able to understand the document’s meaning for it to be valid.
How to Prepare a Personal Directive
The first step is to talk to the person or persons you want to make your decisions. Make your expectations clear and ensure the agent you name has the ability and desire to take on the task. Naming more than one agent allows you to specify who has the authority in different circumstances.
After you document your wishes, you should contact a lawyer for advice to ensure your expectations are represented accurately.
Once you have completed your Personal Directive it must be signed by you and a witness to make it a legal document. Your agent cannot serve as your witness. Copies should be given to your agent(s), your doctor and other people you deem necessary.
You can register your PA with the province. That is optional and free but the document is still valid even if it is not registered. It is also not necessary to have it notarized.
We Can Help with Your Estate Planning needs
Our experienced lawyers can guide you through the legalities of a Personal Directive to ensure you and your loved ones are in the best situation, even at the worst of times.