When a person suffers a serious spinal cord injury due to a car accident it may become impossible for the claimant to physically sign over authority to trusted family members. The victim of personal injury may still be legally competent but simply cannot physically take care of their day to day living needs or take the necessary steps in their ICBC personal injury claim. In British Columbia personal injury lawyers can help injury claimants and their families choose between Adult Guardianship and Legal Representation under the Representation Act.
A representation agreement can allow more than one person to assist. One representative can be appointed to help make decisions about routine management of financial affairs, and another can be appointed to obtain legal services and instruct a personal injury lawyer with respect to ICBC claims or other personal injury claims. There are strict limitations on who can be a representative and whether the representative can make decisions without unanimity. It’s best to hire a lawyer to draft the documents necessary for the representation agreement to be effective and valid.
The great thing about Representation Agreements is that they DO NOT deprive the injury claimant of the ability to make decisions about their ICBC personal injury case, if capable, despite a representative may have been authorized to make that same decision. The claimant maintains their legal right to make decisions and allows them to change the agreement whenever they choose.
The following activities are considered “routine management of financial affairs”:
(a) paying the adult’s bills;
(b) receiving the adult’s pension, income and other money;
(c) depositing the adult’s pension, income and other money in the adult’s accounts;
(d) opening accounts in the adult’s name at financial institutions;
(e) withdrawing money from, transferring money between or closing the adult’s accounts;
(f) receiving and confirming statements of account, passbooks or notices from a financial institution for the purpose of reconciling the adult’s accounts;
(g) signing, endorsing, stopping payment on, negotiating, cashing or otherwise dealing with cheques, bank drafts and other negotiable instruments on the adult’s behalf;
(h) renewing or refinancing, on the adult’s behalf, with the same or another lender, a loan, including a mortgage, if
(i) the principal does not exceed the amount outstanding on the loan at the time of the renewal or refinancing, and
(ii) in the case of a mortgage, no new registration is made in the land title office respecting the renewal or refinancing;
(i) making payment on the adult’s behalf on a loan, including a mortgage, that
(i) exists at the time the representation agreement comes into effect, or
(ii) is a renewal or refinancing under paragraph (h) of a loan referred to in that paragraph;
(j) taking steps under the Land Tax Deferral Actfor deferral of property taxes on the adult’s home;
(k) taking steps to obtain benefits or entitlements for the adult, including financial benefits or entitlements;
(l) purchasing, renewing or cancelling household, motor vehicle or other insurance on the adult’s behalf, other than purchasing a new life insurance policy on the adult’s life;
(m) purchasing goods and services for the adult that are consistent with the adult’s means and lifestyle;
(n) obtaining accommodation for the adult other than by the purchase of real property;
(o) selling any of the adult’s personal or household effects, including a motor vehicle;
(p) establishing an RRSP for the adult;
(q) making contributions to the adult’s RRSP and RPP;
(r) converting the adult’s RRSP to a RRIF or annuity and creating a beneficiary designation in respect of the RRIF or annuity that is consistent with the beneficiary designation made by the adult in respect of that RRSP;
(s) making, in the manner provided in the Trustee Act, any investments that a trustee is authorized to make under that Act;
(t) disposing of the adult’s investments;
(u) exercising any voting rights, share options or other rights or options relating to shares held by the adult;
(v) making donations on the adult’s behalf to registered charities, but only if
(i) this is consistent with the adult’s financial means at the time of the donation and with the adult’s past practices, and
(ii) the total amount donated in any year does not exceed 3% of the adult’s taxable income for that year;
(w) in relation to income tax,
(i) completing and submitting the adult’s returns,
(ii) dealing, on the adult’s behalf, with assessments, reassessments, additional assessments and all related matters, and
(iii) subject to the Income Tax Act and the Income Tax Act(Canada), signing, on the adult’s behalf, all documents, including consents, concerning anything referred to in subparagraphs (i) and (ii);
(x) safekeeping the adult’s documents and property;
(y) leasing a safety deposit box for the adult, entering the adult’s safety deposit box, removing its contents and surrendering the box;
(z) redirecting the adult’s mail;
(aa) doing anything that is
(i) consequential or incidental to performing an activity described in paragraphs (a) to (aa), and
(ii) necessary or advisable to protect the interests and enforce the rights of the adult in relation to any matter arising out of the performance of that activity.
Not all injury claimants suffering from a spinal cord injury are competent to enter into a Representation Agreement. If the claimant has suffering a brain injury or other injury affecting their ability to understand the world around them, an Agreement of this nature may be inappropriate. The test for incapability for standard provisions is as follows:
8 (1) An adult may make a representation agreement consisting of one or more of the standard provisions authorized by section 7 even though the adult is incapable of
(a) making a contract,
(b) managing his or her health care, personal care or legal matters, or
(c) the routine management of his or her financial affairs.
(2) In deciding whether an adult is incapable of making a representation agreement consisting of one or more of the standard provisions authorized by section 7, or of changing or revoking any of those provisions, all relevant factors must be considered, for example:
(a) whether the adult communicates a desire to have a representative make, help make, or stop making decisions;
(b) whether the adult demonstrates choices and preferences and can express feelings of approval or disapproval of others;
(c) whether the adult is aware that making the representation agreement or changing or revoking any of the provisions means that the representative may make, or stop making, decisions or choices that affect the adult;
(d) whether the adult has a relationship with the representative that is characterized by trust.
Again, it is important to speak to a personal injury lawyer to get advice about the whether a representation agreement is right for a victim of spinal cord injury. To get more general information about Representation Agreements in British Columbia see www.nidus.ca.
This article was written by personal injury lawyer Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B. member of the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia