the real/estate blog

How far would you go for a DNR?

Posted in End of Life Care,Estate Planning,Living Wills,Substitute Decisions by Cesia Green on September 13, 2011

I came across this article the other day, about a woman in Norfolk, England who had “Do Not Resuscitate” tattooed on her chest so that doctors would make no mistake about her intentions should she be found unconscious. And, just in case she is found face down, she tattooed “PTO” (please turn over) and an arrow on her back. She has said that, after her husband died, she became concerned that she might be left alive, on life support, and in pain, and wanted to ensure that this does not happen.

However, as the article notes, a tattoo is not enough to prove wishes to a doctor in case of an emergency. In Joy Tomkins’s case, she would need to either have a power of attorney in place, or have a DNR that is put in writing and properly witnessed. The rules are similar in Ontario. The best plan is to have a proper Power of Attorney for Personal Care in place to ensure that your wishes are spelled out, as well as being clear about the person you want making those wishes.


A made-for-TV movie – except it’s real

Posted in Elder abuse,Estate Planning,Seniors,Substitute Decisions by Cesia Green on September 6, 2011

I came across this story today, which seems to combine the worst elements of elder abuse and fraud. In a nutshell: Frank Blumeyer, a wealthy resident of Naples, Florida, befriended his neighbours, Allen and Marcia Brufsky. Within a year, he had loaned them significant amounts of money, and was allegedly having an affair with Marcia at Allen’s insistence (Allen at one point supposedly offered to “sell” Marcia to Frank in an email).

Frank’s children have claimed that the Brufskys victimized their father in order to squeeze as much money as possible from him. The Brufskys claim that they were close friends who were paid for their assistance. They have also produced a will that purports to have left a portion of Frank’s estate to Marcia; Frank’s children claim that he was at a family function all day on the date that the will was allegedly signed, and that there is no way that he signed a will that day. Whoever is right, this estate will likely take significantly longer to administer than would an average estate.

Elder abuse – whether physical, verbal, emotional or financial, or neglect – is becoming a more serious problem as North American populations age. Like so many other forms of abuse, while the perpetrators are sometimes strangers, more often than not they are trusted friends or family members who take advantage of an elderly person’s vulnerability. Whether from external pressure or improperly using a power of attorney, financial abuse of seniors is on the rise. Frank Blumeyer’s story is, sadly, a cautionary tale of what can happen.

Selling your house while you are on vacation

Posted in Powers of Attorney,Real Estate,Substitute Decisions by Cesia Green on August 5, 2011

When I bought my home three years ago, I ran into a small snag: the vendors were insistent on closing on a date when I was not going to be in the country, as I had booked a (very) long-planned visit to old friends overseas. Not wanting to lose the house over this detail, I prepared a Limited Power of Attorney for Property, which allowed my Attorney (aka my agent) to sign anything necessary for the purchase of the house while I was away. Fortunately, working for a law firm meant some perks, like having all of my closing documents ready several weeks before closing so that everything could be signed before I left. Still, having the POA in place meant that if anything changed, my Attorney could contact me, confirm what I wanted done, and sign on my behalf. Thankfully, nothing did change and everything was registered as it was set before I left, but it gave me some peace of mind while I was away.

While I wouldn’t recommend that you plan a vacation around your closing date, sometimes things get in the way. You might have an injury or illness, or suddenly need to be out of town. I have had a client who listed a property, got posted overseas, and then had the property sell to purchasers who wanted to close before he was scheduled to return to Canada. You do need to be sure that the POA is properly drafted and properly signed, since, if it is used, it will need to be registered on title. However, if you need to have the closing happen on schedule and you can’t be there for it, a POA is a useful tool that can help you ensure that the closing happens smoothly.

Court-ordered life?

Posted in Estate Planning,Living Wills,Substitute Decisions by Cesia Green on July 5, 2011

A few weeks ago, I blogged about Hassan Rasouli, a mechanical engineer in Toronto who fell into a coma after contracting bacterial meningitis during surgery to remove a brain tumour. His wife, Parichehr Salasel, ended up in a long dispute with his doctors, who wanted to remove him from life support. She believed that there was a hope of recovery, and insisted that he be kept on life support. The doctors went to court to get permission to unilaterally remove life support. They were unsuccessful at trial, and on Wednesday last week, the Ontario Court of Appeal sided with Parichehr .

The court determined that removal of life support constituted “treatment” under the Health Care Consent Act. It also determined that withdrawing life support was a necessary step in commencing palliative care, which the doctors had agreed required the consent of Hassan’s wife. Therefore, the court’s ultimate decision was that Parichehr’s consent was required to end Hassan’s life support, a decision that will likely have far-reaching effects in the medical community.

You can see the decision, Rasouli v. Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, here.

Court-ordered death

Posted in Estate Planning,Living Wills,Substitute Decisions by Cesia Green on June 14, 2011

In October 2010, Hassan Rasouli, a mechanical engineer living in Toronto, fell into a coma after contracting bacterial meningitis during surgery to remove a brain tumour. His doctors came to the conclusion that he was in a persistent vegetative state, and recommended ending ventilation and removing his feeding tube, which would almost certainly lead to his immediate death. His family disagreed, believing that there was a possibility that he could recover. Both parties refused to budge, leading to a court case that could drastically change the rules in Ontario regarding treatment of terminally ill patients.

The doctors at Sunnybrook Hospital argued that they should have the right to unilaterally decide whether life support measures are appropriate, and should be able to stop such measures if there is no chance of recovery. The family argued that, ultimately, this is the decision of the family member (or of the person him- or herself, if there is a Power of Attorney document that states what the person’s wishes are). As the law stands now, if doctors or family members are unhappy with the treatment options, they can go to the Consent and Capacity Board to appeal the decision. The doctors in this case are trying to bypass the CCB.

The case went to trial in April, where Justice Susan Himel ruled that removing a patient from life support is a treatment requiring consent under the Health Care Consent Act, which meant that the doctors were required to obtain consent from the patient or substitute decision maker. The doctors appealed, and the appeal was heard at the end of May. The Court of Appeal has not yet released their decision.

You can read the Superior Court decision here and an article about the case here.

Everything old should maybe not be new again

Posted in Celebrity Planning,Estate Planning,Living Wills,Substitute Decisions by Cesia Green on June 7, 2011

I read this article from the Daily Mail a little while ago, about Jeff Conaway, who played Kenickie in Grease. Jeff was found in his home in early May in a coma brought on by a suspected drug overdose. Doctors had informed his family that he had suffered brain death and would not recover, and they had planned to end life support until Jeff’s ex-girlfriend, Vikki Lizzi, came forward to announce that she held a power of attorney over Jeff and ordered the life support to be maintained. Doctors are currently on hold until it is established whether the power of attorney is still valid.

I regularly advise people to have powers of attorney prepared so that their health care can be arranged if they are unable to do so for themselves. This case makes it very clear just how important it is to keep these documents current, and to make new ones as your life situation changes. Maybe Jeff Conaway wanted his ex-girlfriend to make these decisions, as an outsider who could be more objective; maybe he simply forgot to update the document. We will likely never know. For the rest of us, we should always make sure that the person named in our power of attorney document is the person we want acting right now, and should always change it in the future when it is appropriate.