In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day coming up on June 15, BC Notaries are bringing attention to the often hidden but prevalent problem of older people being physically, emotionally or financially abused at the hands of strangers, acquaintances and even family members.
Elder abuse is a significant concern in British Columbia where 18.3 percent of B.C.’s population is 65 or older, compared to the national average of 16.9 percent. Seven of the 10 Canadian municipalities with the largest share of people over age 85 are in B.C.
“A lot of older seniors we meet are worried about giving up their independence, and realize that creating a Power of Attorney, healthcare directives and a will empower them and ensure their wishes are followed and interests are protected,” said Tammy Morin Nakashima, president of BC Notaries and Steveston Notary. “If seniors don’t have a family member nearby or are concerned about encumbering them with these responsibilities, a notary can also provide guidance in appointing professionals to certain roles.”
The following can help protect elder adults’ interests:
1. Create a power of attorney
The person with power of attorney—a designation to manage finances and legal affairs—should be well-known, trustworthy and accountable to the older adult, and involve that person in the decision-making process. In cases of financial abuse, this does not happen. A BC Notary can help clarify and designate the attorney’s roles and responsibilities. If there is a question around whether the older adult fully understands the arrangement, then a notary can request an assessment. One way a senior can avoid such a situation is to create a Power of Attorney while independent and of sound mind.
2. Create a representation agreement
In cases where the older adult may have diminished capacity and cannot make a power of attorney, they may still be capable of making a special representation agreement, called a section 7 agreement. This type of agreement provides a designated individual with authority that typically includes minor and major health care, personal care and living arrangements, but can also include legal affairs and routine management of financial affairs. A notary public can advise you on the best approach for your needs, and create the appropriate agreement.
3. Set up a joint bank account
A joint bank account for a senior and a trusted family member or close friend provides a second set of eyes monitoring for any suspicious transactions, such as large cash withdrawals that could occur as a result of a scam or fraud. It is imperative, however, to seek advice first from a Notary or other legal counsel because this “joint tenancy” could unintentionally completely alter the individual’s estate plan.