Saturday, November 24, 2007

Chief Justice McLachlin's Address on Elder Law

The Canadian Centre for Elder Law Studies has posted the Chief Justice of Canada, Beverley McLachlin's keynote address at the Canadian Converence of Elder Law, held November 8-10, 2007. (I regret that I could not attend this year.)

The Chief Justice describes elder law as follows:

What is elder law? In its broadest form, elder law refers both to a loosely defined group of legal issues and to a unique multidisciplinary approach that recognizes the connections among the legal, social and health needs of older persons and their families. Its practice includes providing advice on both range of questions, including: the preparation of wills and powers of attorney; the rights of nursing home residents and quality of long-term care; elder abuse and exploitation; age and disability discrimination in employment and housing; divorce, marriage and common law unions; health care directives; estate planning; probate applications; personal and property legislation; and financial abuse. Elder law, like family law, is not a narrow
specialty. Yet like family law, it will benefit from specialization and the in-depth understanding and competence this promotes.

The practice of elder law is demanding. Elder law lawyers are expected to bring to their practice more than just legal expertise. In order to properly serve their clients' interests, they must understand how to counsel older people, understand the ageing process, and be familiar with the network of ageing services available to meet their clients' needs. Above all, they must be capable of dealing with the special legal and ethical issues that may arise in the course of the representation of older persons.
In her address, she discusses some of special legal and ethical issues, including the importance of lawyers making sure that they are following their older clients' intentions. This means that the lawyer must take the instructions from his or her client directly, rather than through the client's family.

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