No end-of-life plans? Watch the movie, “I Care A Lot”.

 In Estate Planning

The 2020 film, I Care A Lot has been making waves in the industry of estate administration lately. The comedy thriller starring Peter Dinklage and Rosamund Pike is about a crooked legal guardian who drains the savings of her elderly wards. Her method: petitioning a local court to appoint her as the emergency guardian for older adults whom she alleges cannot make decisions for themselves. The film gives us a peek into the world of the for-profit “professional” guardianship/conservatorship industry. In this movie, Rosamund Pike, the “professional guardian,” chooses her clients very carefully. She is sure to select individuals with no family, no legal will made, holding considerable insurance and assets, and most importantly someone that she can fake a doctor’s note in order to gain legal guardianship from the court. While the movie turns “Hollywood” at times, the first half of the film is a glimpse into a scary reality.

The beginnings of the movie show a predatory guardian taking advantage of a voiceless victim. The guardian has the elderly woman stripped of her rights and put in a care home against her wishes with zero contact with the outside world. Her house and all her possessions are sold immediately, this half of the movie was the scariest of all. It was eye opening to me and I was furiously googling laws with such speed my keyboard was smoking as I watched the movie! The second half the film is more of a usual thriller movie, detailing the repercussions after a child comes out of the woodwork along with a few good gun fights.

Despite the plot twists and grandioso theatrics, I Care A Lot is not as far fetched as it seems. While the movie occurs in the US, the laws in Ontario are similar. In Ontario, any person may apply to be a court-appointed guardian of property or personal care: a spouse, a child, niece/ nephew, or even a friend. When none of these options are available, trust companies can also act as paid guardians of property much like in the film. The order for guardianship should include a finding that the person is incapable of managing property, or incapable with respect to some or all personal care functions. A court appointed guardian of property can do just about anything the incapacitated person would have done, although they cannot make a will or dispose of property that is subject of a specific gift in the will, unless of course there is court approval. A guardian for personal care may make decisions for the person such as living arrangements, health care, nutrition, and hygiene.

After watching this movie, the main take away I have is to make absolutely sure that you have your plans in place for any outcome in life. Make sure you have a will made, and that your choices for your care are clearly laid out. Imagine if you suddenly couldn’t speak for yourself one day? Would you be prepared for that right now? Make sure the person who will be speaking for you is not only someone you trust, but someone that you know will make the right decisions on your behalf and will carry out your wishes to the full extent. While the plot to this movie is quite dramatic it does give us a glimpse into a scary reality. My final advice, always be prepared, and in the meantime watch I Care A Lot on Amazon Prime, it’s a good 2 hours, and who doesn’t love Peter Dinklage?!

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