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September's Ask an Expert

I am a widower who recently had a stroke. I am in hospital awaiting rehabilitation until I can move back home. What can I do to ensure my financial needs are taken care of temporarily?

Becoming ill and having to spend a lengthy time in the hospital can be frustrating and stressful. It can also be a time when you might be most vulnerable to being defrauded or robbed without being able to detect what's happened for quite some time. But you don't have to navigate this alone and there are caring professionals that can help.

Ensure that you have a Will, Personal Directive and a Power of Attorney. We recommend that you hire a lawyer to help create these documents. If that is not possible, ask your nurse to arrange an appointment with the hospital Social Worker to help you find the resources to get your documents in order.

A Will is a document that clearly outlines who you would like to receive your estate (belongings, property, and money) should you die.

A Personal Directive is a document that outlines who and what kind of care you want should you no longer be able to make decisions for yourself. For example: what kind of medical care do you wish to receive and where do you want to live if you cannot return home.

A Power of Attorney is when you designate a person to take care of your personal financial affairs. A Power of Attorney can have an end date and can be limited to a few financial tasks such as paying your mortgage, bills, and giving you an allowance to take care of your own needs.

An Enduring Power of Attorney is when you can no longer make decisions for yourself. This is a document that turns over all financial decisions to your designated person. This includes handling your bank accounts, investments, selling of your home, etc. Your designated person will need to prove that you can no longer take care of your financial matters. This is usually done via a doctor’s letter and by going to court. An Enduring Power of Attorney cannot be cancelled unless you go to court and prove that you can take care of your own financial needs. If there is no one in your life that can manage your finances or your personal directive, the Alberta Public Guardian and Trustee can take on the role - (780) 427-0017.

If it sounds like you require a Personal Directive and may not have one, you need to think about who in your life you TRUST the most. It does not have to be an immediate family member; it could be a long-time friend, but it needs to be someone you TRUST.

Ask them if they are willing to act as your temporary trustee and clearly outline what responsibilities you wish them to take over. Set a timeline for the Personal Directive (you can always extend the date if you are not out of the hospital) and decide how you would like them to report their spending to you. Have you or another family friend monitor it on-line or have your designated person provide bi-weekly bank statements. If possible call your bank and let them know what you are doing and ask them to transfer any excess funds into another account and only keep the money you think you may need in the account that your designated person has access to.

Please DO NOT simply hand over your bank and credit cards without putting controls in place that will protect you in the long run.

If, at any time you feel that your finances are being handled inappropriately, please call SAIF’s Elder Abuse Response Coordinator at (780) 460-2195 ext 305 and she will see how best to support you.

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