Personal Directives in Nova Scotia – 5 common questions

Woman receives care specified in her personal directive

What is a Personal Directive? 

A Personal Directive is a document that sets out how personal care decisions will be made for you when you are no longer mentally capable of making those decisions yourself. These would include things such as your health care decisions. This directive is only in effect when you are alive but mentally incapable of speaking for yourself. 

What care decisions might someone need permission to make?

Personal care decisions include not only your health care, but your choice of residence and support services. You will make it clear how far you would like doctors to go should you become terminally ill or injured. This takes the huge burden of decision making off of your next of kin. In other situations, such as Alzheimer’s disease, you can state you would like to be placed in a care home if you don’t want your children to feel obligated to move you in with them. Should your savings allow, you may state that you would like in-home respite care under certain circumstances. These are some situations to consider and ones your estate planning lawyer can ask you about and include in your personal directive. 

Why think about preparing a Personal Directive now? 

Your family doesn’t have a history of any major health conditions, so how soon should you prepare a Personal Directive? Like all things in life, we have no guarantees. There is no guarantee that tomorrow we will be able to make the decisions about our family, our work or our personal life that we make daily. Our ability to make our own decisions is often taken for granted. What happens if you are in a car accident where you suffer permanent brain injury? What if you are involved in a sporting accident and you are unconscious for a week? If you have a Personal Directive, you know the answer. You know who will be designated to make decisions for you.

Who can make a Personal Directive? 

If you are mentally capable of understanding the information you are writing and the consequences of those choices, you can make a Personal Directive. This is why it is important for everyone to have a personal directive. Should you have an accident and be partially impaired, you may not be allowed to make a personal directive for the future. 

How should I make my Personal Directive?

We advise speaking to a lawyer about drafting this document on your behalf. There are certain conditions which must be met before it will be considered valid. In preparation for this meeting, we suggest that you talk to the people you trust about these decisions. Your family, health care providers or spiritual advisors may be people you want to discuss these issues with. It may not be easy, but it gives you greater control over your future and removes the stress of decision making for your family. 

Other things to know

Prior to the Personal Directives Act, there was a Medical Consent Act which is now revoked. Medical consent appointments made before April 1, 2010 are still valid, but are limited to decisions about medical treatment. 

If you would like to create a Personal Directive, contact us today to book a consultation with our family lawyer, Shawn Scott. 

This blog is meant for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for legal advice.

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