New Brunswick exploring power of attorney reform as group calls for change

An organization is calling on the New Brunswick government to implement power of attorney legislation. File Photo

The Office of the Attorney General of New Brunswick has confirmed to Global News that they are considering a reform of the province’s power of attorney legislation.

Although they didn’t elaborate on the type of reform they’re exploring, at least one organization is laying out a possible framework for them. The Power of Attorney Action Group recently called on the province to implement stand-alone legislation in New Brunswick — the only province in the country that doesn’t have it.

“We have a limited number of provisions that speak to power of attorney but really only briefly, so there’s no legislation that provides for a standard of what power of attorney looks like in New Brunswick,” said Monica Barley, a member of the Power of Attorney Action Group and partner at Actus Law.

READ MORE: Troubles, tricks and tragedies: Financial abuse of powers of attorney

Without a legislation that lays out the scope of power of attorney, the group says that New Brunswickers can be left in a legal limbo where families or individuals are left trying to figure out who is in charge.

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Power of attorney is a legal document that allows a person the authority to act on another’s behalf if they’re incapable of doing it themselves and would help determine things like:

  • Who can act as an attorney
  • Who can cash/deposit cheques, withdraw money from bank accounts, make payments on bills or loans
  • Who can manage, buy and sell real estate
  • Who can conduct business
  • Who can make health-care decisions
  • Who can provide consent to medical treatment

Changing how things are done

In the current system, New Brunswickers attempting to act on another’s behalf are often forced to go through the courts to determine they be given power of attorney. But that’s expensive and time-consuming, requiring two medical professionals to attest in writing that a person is no longer capable of helping themselves.

Barley says that 71 per cent of Canadians haven’t given someone power of attorney and with the aging population in New Brunswick, it may be even higher.

“They think by having a will and appointing an executor that that person will be able to take care of things if they need to, that’s just simply not correct,” said Barley.

“Even if someone is appointed power of attorney, right now they don’t have somewhere they can go to find out what they can do.”

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The Power of Attorney Action Group says that is something they want to see fixed.

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Bonnie Hayward of Moncton, has been personally affected by the lack of legislation. The 64-year-old struggled with paying her bills after her husband suffered a sudden brain aneurysm in 1999, leaving him incapacitated, unable to speak and needing a wheelchair to get around.

“I had to apply to the court to be able to make decisions for Richard’s care as well as any financial decisions for us,” said Hayward.

“I had no way of accessing his pay for our household expenses as it was deposited to his account … I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through.”

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