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planned giving & trust se r vices Esther was 75 when we first met. She was a kind and soft-spoken lady who graciously invited me and my family to dinner when we moved into her neighbourhood. Although we didn’t attend the same Seventh-day Adventist church, our paths crossed many times. The last time we spoke, she said she was thinking of selling her home, as it was too large for her to take care of on her own. Shortly thereafter I learned she had moved to Florida to be closer to her two adult sons. Years later I received a call from the Planned Giving department at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada headquarters about an inquiry from an elderly Canadian woman living in Florida who wanted to purchase a Charitable Gift Annuity, naming It Is Written as the charity. They contacted me because they knew I had experience helping church members structure their affairs to leave legacy gifts to Adventist organizations. I called the Canadian woman and discovered she was my old friend, Esther. She sounded distressed. “Please don’t contact the boys,” she said. “I don’t know what I’ve done and I don’t understand what’s happening with my money. Can you help?” I told her I would look into it and let her know my findings. Throughout our conversation, Esther was able to answer all of my questions, so I was not at all concerned about her mental capacity. Upon review, I learned she had been declared mentally incompetent and had given “Committeeship” to her two sons. A Committee is different from a Power of Attorney in that it is a Supreme Court order giving up an individual’s right to make his or her own medical or financial decisions, with few exceptions. 1 Esther provided me with two doctor’s reports assessing her 1 mental capability as normal for her age, so I was concerned she had signed the order without good cause or understanding. I explained to Esther that although I wanted to help, legally I couldn’t continue discussing her finances without including her Committee. Esther was in a tough spot. She had agreed to the Commit- teeship but was now regretful, realizing the consequences of this decision. I was relieved to find all of her money accounted for and invested safely under the Committee guidelines but at a very low interest rate. The principal would have to be encroached upon in order for her to live comfortably and leave a legacy gift. At this point her only recourse was to begin the difficult process of applying to remove the Committee appointment in order for her to be involved once again in decisions regarding her affairs and hopefully have her legacy plan materialize as she intended. I believe Esther’s boys love her and weren’t acting maliciously or selfishly; however, all parties involved did not fully understand the consequences of a decision of this magnitude. The lesson in Esther’s story is to start legacy planning early and make your intentions well known. Talk with a Planned Giving professional and be sure you understand all legal differences between terms such as Committee and Power of Attorney within your province. My prayer for Esther and her boys is that their relationship is not damaged by what has happened, and Esther may live out the rest of her days in comfort and peace. n Rick Wiegel is an investment advisor in Victoria, B.C. Committee (pronounced caw-mi-tay, emphasis at the end) is an order drawn up by the Supreme Court of BC appointing a specified individual to make personal, legal, medical or financial decisions for someone who is mentally incapable of making these decisions for himself/herself. General Power of Attorney gives someone else the power to look after the finances and property of an individual only if he/she becomes mentally incapable of looking after his/her own affairs. Enduring Power of Attorney is a legal document that lets an individual’s appointed attorney continue acting for him/her if he/she becomes mentally incapacitated. M M ay 2 016 13