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Legal Ease: Resolutions for peace of mind in the new year

As the year nears its end, I am in the habit of making New Year’s resolutions and I have been thinking of a few I would like to share.

Resolution 1: Always read the small print and the back of a contract, especially insurance policies where surprises come in the form of exclusion clauses. The insurance policy not only states what event (risks) you are insured for, but also lists those risks the insurance company will not cover. Other frequent examples are car rental contracts, credit card contracts, travel documents, transportation contracts and purchase contracts. If you’re lucky, the Consumer Protection Act or the Civil Code may save you, but that is only if the exclusion clause has not been explained to you, or is written in such a way as to be illegible or incomprehensible to the “reasonable person”. So always be sure to look at the back of the contract or any document provided to you by the merchant. Read the contents and ask questions about things that you do not understand.

Resolution 2: Always read any addendum or annex that comes with the main contract, especially a lease for an assisted living residence. The assisted living residence lease is now accompanied by an additional form or annex to be signed in cases where the landlord provides special services for the personal needs of the tenant. This additional form details the additional services to be provided.

It is obligatory to complete and sign the annex to the lease of assisted living premises. The landlord is obliged to specify which part of the rent is to be attributed to the leasing of the premises and which to the cost of each service. When a tenant has to leave because he requires greater nursing care or more personal assistance than is provided at the residence, he must give two months notice in writing and provide a certificate from an authorized person stating that the move is necessary. He is obliged to pay the two months’ rent for the premises, if it is not rented during the notice period. The tenant is only required to pay that part of the rent for the services provided prior to his departure. In other words, if a tenant gives his two-month notice but moves out before the two months have expired and the premises have not been leased to another tenant, he will be responsible for the rent owing for the premises but not for those services which he did not receive following his departure. The same principle holds true in the event of the death of the tenant. Landlords are aware of these provisions; tenants often are not. This can lead to abuse by the landlord when a tenant is obliged to move due to a change in his condition or when the estate of a deceased tenant is obliged to cancel the lease. So read the annex and insist on your rights.

Resolution 3: Resolve to make a will and a mandate in the event of incapacity. If you do have these documents, resolve to review them. Your mandate will probably contain end-of-life instructions or perhaps you have these in a separate document. Look at the instructions and make sure you feel the same way you did when you first wrote them. And see that a copy is placed in your medical and hospital records.

Review your mandate and think about whether you want the same people to represent you in the event you are incapacitated. Ask yourself whether the person named is now too old to undertake the responsibility of acting on your behalf, or has moved and now lives too far away. Perhaps a close relative such as a grandchild or niece, who has grown up, is now old enough to replace your former choice.

Review your will and ask yourself if you are still happy with your choice of liquidator. Consider whether or not the person named will be available or is likely to be able to carry out the duties of liquidator. Do you want to change the funeral arrangements you formerly requested? Do you want to add or remove a beneficiary? Do you want to modify those provisions relating to the distribution of the assets of your estate?

While you are reviewing these documents, advise your future representatives as to where they are kept. To facilitate matters, attach a list of your assets and provide instructions as to how the documents can be accessed with the names and contact information of your financial advisor, bank, trust company, beneficiaries, etc.

Carrying out these resolutions will give you peace of mind. Whatever you do, enjoy the holiday season and have a happy and healthy New Year.

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