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A power of attorney might have saved comatose man's belongings

When most people in British Columbia think about estate planning, they probably focus on what will happen to their assets after they pass away. Some especially astute men and women may also recognize the value of granting power of attorney to a trusted loved one in case they lose the ability to make decisions for themselves later in life. However, having a power of attorney can pay dividends at any time and any age should something unexpected happen.

On Dec. 2, 2014, a Manitoba man suffered a life-threatening head injury when a second man attacked him. Doctors performed multiple surgeries on the man, and he was comatose for weeks after. He spent another three months in an ICU, and many more months in rehab. While in a coma, his doctors gave the Public Guardian and Trustee for the province permission to handle the man's affairs, since no family came forward to assist. The only family member to step up was his stepmother, but because she was not next-of-kin, she could not act on his behalf.

Sometime during March 2015, the man had recovered enough to be told what became of his personal assets. The Public Guardian determined there was insufficient value in his estate to pay for storage of his belongings, so they turned them over to the property management company that owned his apartment. That company donated his belongings to a charity which, in turn, sold all of his personal effects except for a very few items. The Public Guardian offered him less than $3,800 for his loss, though the man estimated the value of his assets at more than $37,000. He is now suing for his loss, legal costs and other expenses.

Understandably, this unfortunate man is extremely frustrated, especially since he knows he could have avoided this whole mess if he had a power of attorney in place. A will is a useful tool for preparing for the inevitable. A power of attorney prepares one for what might happen. Rather than realize too late that one is ill-prepared for the future, it is far better to take the time now to create some peace of mind. A lawyer skilled with British Columbia estate law can help.

Source: CBC News - Manitoba, "'I lost everything': Beating victim says government gave away his belongings while he was in coma", Laura Glowacki, June 7, 2017

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