If you become seriously injured or ill, possessing a personal directive entitles someone you know and trust to make important decisions on your behalf. Unlike a will, which takes effect after death, a personal directive is put into effect while you are still living. Instructions cannot include any financial matters but may include medical treatments, where you would like to live, who you would like to live with, decisions about recreation, employment, and education, and who you want to care for your minor children if you cannot. It is valid even if it was written in another province and remains valid until you revoke it and write a new one, or you pass away. It is suggested that you review your personal directive from time to time to ensure it continues to meet your needs.
Writing a personal directive is highly recommended and relatively easy. A form can be downloaded by visiting www.seniors.alberta.ca/opg or can be mailed to your address upon request by phoning the Office of Public Guardians (OPG) toll free at 1-877-427-4525. There is an office located in Red Deer open from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from Monday to Friday that can be reached by phoning 403-340-5165 as well. You do not need a lawyer to write a personal directive but if you wish to receive legal advice and do not know a lawyer, the Law Society will provide you with the names of three lawyers who charge nothing for the first half hour interview.
Once your personal directive is written, signed, dated and witnessed, it is recommended that you keep a copy in a safe place and to give a copy to your family doctor, family members and of course the person you appoint.
It is estimated that 100,00 Albertans have personal directives, however, there are roughly 2.5 million Albertans who are 18 and over which makes them eligible to have one.
If you haven’t written one, it is recommended you take it into consideration and if you have already written one, it can now be registered.
The government registry is expected to become available after April 1, 2009 and will let your health care providers know you have a personal directive and will show contact information for your chosen guardian in case an emergency situation arises. The copy of the form will not appear.
To register, visit www.seniors.ab.ca/opg/registry where you will be asked to input your Alberta Secure Access Service login code and password and if you don’t have one, it can be created on the spot. You will receive a confirmation letter in the mail soon after. If you do not have a computer call the OPG at the number listed above or visit the Red Deer office for further assistance.