"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things."

~ Niccolo Machiavelli, historian and writer

Friday, December 28, 2007

Big News ... New Class Proceedings Act for Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia has finally passed a piece of legislation authorizing 'class actions'. Most provinces in Canada have such legislation, which allows one or two individuals to go forward as plaintiffs, representing not just themselves but also others whose claims raise a common issue.

The court can 'certify' a proceeding as a class proceeding even though
  • the relief claimed includes a claim for damages that would require individual assessment;
  • the relief claimed relates to separate contracts involving different class members;
  • different remedies are sought for different class members;
  • the number or identify of each class member is not ascertained and may not be ascertainable; or
  • the class includes a subclass whose members have claimed not shared by all class members.
From the lawyer's point of view, this makes it much easier and more effecient to bring forward the case of, for example, one child with special needs who is suing the school board for failing to accommodate his disabilities in a situation where you know there are other children who also have a similar claim against that same school board. Or, for another example, the situation of a challenged person bringing suit against the Province in the person of the Department of Community Services for failure to provide them with services to which they are entitled under the Services for Persons with Disabilities program when there are other individuals in the Province with similar claims and causes of actions.

Now one person can take the case forward on behalf of the others with the result that not only is it brought to the court's attention that this isn't just an isolated 'one-off' occurence or problem [and never underestimate the importance of that little tidbit], but also, if successful, the judgement and order against the defendant should benefit all members of the class, be it a declaration of rights or a montetary judgment.

Prior to this, Nova Scotians in such a situation could only proceed by way of a representative action, a much more cumbersome and less satisfactory route. One point to note, however, is that even though the Class Proceedings Act has been passed, to the best of my knowledge, it has not yet been proclaimed. That must still await the government's pleasure ... in other words, they will do it when they get around to it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

So This Is Christmas

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to take a moment to wish you and your families a Very Merry Christmas.

Take this time to catch your breath, relax, behold and appreciate your children's happiness, however they may show it. And hold your children and these memories tight. That they may they help sustain you in the days ahead.

May you and your family have a peaceful holiday filled with joy and love.

Friday, December 21, 2007

They Did It!

So much for attempting to change the subject...
This arrived in my inbox from PLAN today.


Public Policy Update December 2007

WE DID IT!

RDSP receives Royal Assent


After an 8 year campaign, PLAN’s proposal for a Disability Savings Plan is now a fact. On Friday December 14th the RDSP received royal ascent after passing third reading in both the House of Commons and the Senate.

The RDSP is historic and noteworthy for a number of reasons:

Canada is the first country in the world to offer a Registered Disability Savings Plan.

The Federal Government has budgeted $115 million in matching Canada Disability Savings Grants and Bonds in for 2008-09.

An estimated 700,000 Canadians with disabilities and their families will be affected.

Provincial Governments will be forced to the asset limits for disability benefits and to eliminate claw-back. (See sidebar for changes already made by the Government of British Columbia.)

The Federal Government has emphatically declared that they trust families and people with disabilities. There are no restrictions on what the RDSP can be spent on.

PLAN is now working with financial institutions and the federal government to ensure the RDSP is offered as a "product" in every financial institution in the country as quickly as possible.

Write and thank Federal Minister Flaherty for his commitment to people with disabilities and our families.

So great news, that!

As I understand it, PLAN has been a, make that the, leader in having the Federal government create the RDSP.

So, if you're interested in helping them continue with their good work


Three Ways to Support Our Voice in Ottawa

  • Become a PLAN Associate, get great benefits and support our public policy voice.

  • Become a monthly donor and make a supporter of our work to ensure that people with disabilities are able to live good lives.

  • Make a year end donation to PLAN and enable us to continue to work in Ottawa to make it easier for families achieve peace of mind.


    -------------------------------------------------------------
    Contact Information:

    Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN)
    #260-3665 Kingsway - Vancouver BC V5R 5W2
    Phone: 604.439.9566 - Fax: 604.439.7001
    Email: inquiries@plan.ca - Website: http://www.plan.ca

It's About Time For A Nova Scotia Family Pharmacare Program

And now for a complete change of topic ...

My fellow Nova Scotians will be pleased to know that the Nova Scotia Family Pharmacare Program will come into effect on March 1, 2008. All residents of the Province with a valid Nova Scotia Health Care are eligible for the program which covers certain prescribed drugs, supplies and related services, as listed in the Nova Scotia Formulary.

The value to each family will depend upon the family's size and income. Although there are no yearly premiums, there is an annual family deductible and co payment. The co payment is 20% of the cost of each prescription (which compares favourably to a lot of private insurance plans in which which the plan pays 80% of the cost of the drug and the individual pays 20%).

An easy-to-use and useful electronic calculator is available on the site which can be used to help determine your family's annual deductible.

But remember that even if you have private health coverage, you may still benefit under the provincial Plan. Anything you are required to pay out of pocket under your private plan (ie. a deductible or a co-pay like the 20% in the example above) can be used to count towards your Family Pharmacare deductible and a further portion of the cost might then be paid by the Family Pharmacare Program once their deductible has been met.

You must, however, register for the program by completing a registration form and mailing or faxing it to

Nova Scotia Family Pharmacare Program
PO Box 9322
Halifax NS, B3K 6A1
Fax: (902)-468-9402

The registration form can be found here.
And a Frequently Asked Questions page can be found here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Its Off To BC We Go

I was just thinking that it looks like we might just have two choices.

Either we all move to British Columbia or we get hard at work at lobbying our own provincial governments to follow in their footsteps. To ensure that they too fully exempt the federal government’s Registered Disability Savings Plan when calculating eligibility for disability assistance.

For those of us in Nova Scotia, you can start here or go directly to her. Time to pony up and lobby, folks!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The RDSP ... Just Another RRSP?

As important as they are, I know its time to move on to some new topics, beyond the Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSP) and the Henson Trust. But I wanted to share with you one more thing I came across today regarding the RDSP.

A few weeks ago I had posted a question on the RDSP blog. And then went merrily (after all, 'tis the season) on my way. But I went back today to check for an answer.
Michelle Says:
November 24, 2007 at 4:39 am
I have heard conflicting reports as to whether the RDSP is ‘just’ a RRSP for persons with disabilities or something more. In other words, can payments be made out of the plan to the beneficiary before the beneficiary reaches the age of 60 or only after?
Thanks for all your hard work with this.

Dennis Mullins Says:
November 27, 2007 at 2:09 am
Payments can be made out of the plan before age 60 but any grants or bonds plus accrued income for the last 10 years must be payed back. Also the maximum payment formula takes into account the beneficiary’s age so the younger the beneficiary the smaller the maximum yearly withdrawal.
Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with who Dennis is so you might want to take his response with a grain of salt. But for what it's worth, it's probably as close to a real answer as I've really gotten to that question yet. Still, I hope to have a better 'source' on the issue in the near future. In the meantime, once again, now you know what I know.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Guide to Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning

I came across a nice article today on our favourite topic de jour.

WILLS, TRUSTS, AND ESTATE PLANNING: A GUIDE FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES AND THEIR FAMILIES

It covers Wills, Powers of Attorneys, the Henson Trust, Guardianship and what you need to think about before you visit a lawyer in regard to these topics. It also appear to cover in some detail the issue of picking the trustees for a Henson Trust, a very important point when you consider that you are giving the trustee(s) absolute and complete, 100% unfettered discretion as to how much, if any, of the funds in the Trust will actually be distributed to the beneficiary (likely your disabled child).

Although written by members of an Ontario law firm, Siskinds, the majority of it should translate out for the rest of the country. So go get a cup of coffee, sit back and prepare to be educated. Some more.

The other thing I have been hearing a fair bit lately locally is the question of "Who?". As in
"Who do I go to? Which lawyer should I go to in order to have this done?"
As I've noted before, not all lawyers are necessarily up to snuff in this area of the law. And you really do want to make sure you that you hire someone who can give you the best value for your money. Who will get it done right.

I've been hesitant to make concrete suggestions on the subject up until now. So let's try this. If you live in Nova Scotia and want to stay with a lawyer in this Province, I would suggest contacting your local disability organization [ie. Nova Scotia Down Syndrome Society, Schizophrenia Society, Epilepsy Association or other appropriate organization] and see if there is anyone they might recommend. If that doesn't work, I know that Mr. Paul Miller, a lawyer in Bedford, use to do a lot of this work. Having met him once and knowing his reputation, personally, I wouldn't hesitate to take this type of work to him.

And for the big bang, I can do no better than to recommend Mr. Ken Pope, he of the Disability and Estate Planning Seminar, whose presentation resulted in the majority of these posts. Mr. Pope is licensed to practice across the country, meaning that he can act as a lawyer in Nova Scotia or British Columbia, as easily as he can in Ontario. And seeing as he's the one that taught me the majority of what you've seen in these pages for the past few months, maybe not such a bad idea.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Another Day, Another Link

You will recall that more than a few of my recent posts have dealt with material gleaned from Mr. Kenneth Pope when he visited Halifax for the Disability and Estate Planning Seminar.

Well, today I came across this article on Mr. Pope's website, The Proposed Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) ~ Helping families do more with their money. I would suggest that you do check it out as the man does, indeed, 'know his stuff'.

In fact, you should really just take a mosey around his whole site.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The RDSP In A Nutshell

So. I wanted to do one more post on the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP). From my notes from the Disability and Estate Planning Seminar.

The way I understand it, the RDSP has a lot in common with both the RRSP and RESP. Its much more like the RRSP than I first realized. In fact, it appears to be very much like a RRSP for a person with a disability.

Before I go any further, let me state that the following is based on information I received at the Seminar on October 13, 2007. So it may have become subject to change since that time.

That being said, here is what I understand:
  1. I am not 100% clear on this and I'm not sure whether it has been definitively decided or not, but some at least are saying that no funds will be able to be withdrawn from the RDSP until the person reaches the age of 60 (or some other similar magic age).

  2. One of the really nice things about the RDSP however is that (much like the RESP), the government will match contributions made to the Plan. As I understand it, the first $1,570 contributed to the Plan will trigger a $3,500 contribution from the federal government.

  3. Depending on certain income guidelines, it could be possible that even in years where no contributions are made to the Plan, some amount of government contribution will still occur.

  4. The lifetime maximum contribution to the Plan (by individuals, not including the government grants) is $200,000.

  5. Subject to that lifetime maximum, contributions made to the plan until the disabled individual is 49 years of age will trigger government contributions.

  6. Subject to that lifetime maximum, contributions can continue to be made to the Plan until the disabled individual reaches the age of 59, but no government contributions will be triggered once the disabled individual is 50 years of age and older.

  7. If the disabled individual starts withdrawing money from the Plan within the first 12 years after the Plan is created, she will be required to start paying back some of the government contributions.

All that being said, I probably can't do much better than to point people back to Jack's blog. Off you go.

Update: I just went and checked out Jack's blog again myself. Most, but not all, of the above is accurate so you really do need to head over there to get the most up-to-date information.

Now, again, off you go.


**Once again, with grateful acknowledgment to Mr. Ken Pope and the Nova Scotia Downs Syndrome Society for 'bringing him to town'.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Do You Really Know Your Life Insurance?

Maybe you do. Hopefully you do.
Hopefully you've given it a little more thought than I had.

I purchased my first life insurance policy shortly after my marriage. Prior to that, I hadn't felt that I had any reason to really think about it. But knowing that I would want to start a family in the not too distant future made it seem like a good idea.

And I purchased term life insurance. After all the cost of whole life was significantly more. And with both my husband and I each having two different policies and being happy with the overall amount of insurance we had, I put the matter out of my mind. Crossed it off my mental list. After all, there are always enough other things to think about, right?

Unfortunately, I had failed to seriously consider the implications of term insurance. The implication being that when the term was up (20 years in my case), so was the insurance policy. The death benefit was gone, all was lost. Sure, there would be happy to sell me another term policy at that point. With the new premium being based on my age at that time.

Yeah, I know. Some of you out there must be saying "Duh. How could she miss that?". And honestly, I don't know. But I did. And I would have no doubt remained in my happy state of oblivion until the term expired (three years from now as it turns out) and I was slapped in the face by reality.

The only reason it came to my attention now was because of Mr. Pope's comments on life insurance at the Disability and Estate Planning Seminar. Mr. Pope was recommending the purchase of what's often called T100 insurance - term to 100 insurance. Apparently, not all companies continue to offer this type of insurance but it can still be found. In its simplest form, its term insurance that continues until the insured reaches the age of 100 years.

Mr. Pope also spoke about something called "T100 joint and last" in which the spouses jointly purchase one policy which covers both their lives. In this example, the insurance policy would not pay any death benefit when the first spouse died. However, the surviving spouse would no longer have to pay any more premiums after that death and the policy would pay out when the second spouse died. And the spouses would have set it up so that the proceeds would go into a Henson Trust when the second death occurred.

In this case, the policy is being used not as an insurance policy, but as a monthly savings plan. If you place your money in a savings account, you won't make anything. Unlike putting your money with an insurance company.

And as Mr. Pope was talking, it hit me. Other than our house, the only asset we will really have to leave to our children is our life insurance. Which I was aware of. Which is what I intended would go to them in trust.

Right, that would be the policy that would no longer exist once the term was up.

Which meant that I needed to ensure that at least some of our life insurance was converted to whole life or a T100 policy. In our case, since our family will need some of that life insurance to make up for the loss of income should one of us die, a 'T100 joint and last' policy would not be a practical alternative. Unfortunately, I am now looking at making that conversion to whole life with premiums based on my current age. As opposed to my age 20 years ago.

That repetitive noise you hear? That's me still kicking myself.

So as you consider what you will have to leave not just your disabled child but also any siblings they may have, it might not be such a bad idea to pull out those life insurance policies. And look at them again. Because even if you have term insurance and the term won't expire until your children are adults, chances are you will want to make sure that you still leave something to your disabled child, no matter how old they might be upon your death.

In which case, if you're counting on your life insurance proceeds to form part, or all, of a Henson Trust, you will want to make sure that you will actually have a valid policy that will pay out no matter what your age when you die. And the sooner you ensure you have that set up properly, the less you will have to kick yourself about.

Trust me, I know.

**Once again, with grateful acknowledgment to Mr. Ken Pope and the Nova Scotia Downs Syndrome Society for 'bringing him to town'.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Foundations in British Columbia

I am trying to get more information as to exactly what kind of help this family is looking for but on the off chance one of my readers can help, please either leave a comment or click on the Profile link and send me an email. Thank you.

Question too all. Are there any foundations in Canada that can help a family out whose child has a very rare from of epilepsy. The child is 14 months old and has Dravet's Syndrome.
Kelowna, BC, Canada