"So many dreams at first seem impossible. And then they seem improbable. And then when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable."
~ Christopher Reeve

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Good News on RDSP Front

I just moseyed over to the RDSP blog and came across some good news.

Apparently the most recent Federal budget dealt with the RDSP. Who knew?

First:
In recognition that families of children with disabilities may not be able to contribute regularly to their Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP), Budget 2010 proposes to allow a 10-year carry forward of Canada Disability Savings Grant (CDSG) and Canadian Disability Savings Bond (CDSB) entitlements. In event of delays of opening a RDSP as a result of the complex guardianship processes that are in place in some provinces, the proposed carry forward will preserve a
beneficiary’s entitlement to CDSGs and CDSBs so that they are available when a plan is opened.
Then:
In the Budget, the government is also encouraging all provinces to look at introducing more streamlined alternative processes to formal guardianship arrangements, such as those in place in British Columbia.
And finally:
To provide parents more flexibility in ensuring that their savings may be used to support a disabled child, when they are no longer able to support the child, Budget 2010 proposes to allow a deceased individual’s RRSP or RRIF proceeds to be transferred, on a tax-free basis, to the RDSP of a financially dependent infirm child or grandchild.
The rollover provisions not only offer a way to provide for a disabled family member after you're gone, but can also involve a potentially large tax saving - instead of the entire amount in an individual's RRSP or RRIF becoming taxable income the year they die, the funds can now be passed into an RDSP, with no tax payable. And when the funds are eventually withdrawn from the RDSP, they will be taxable in the hands of the beneficiary, at the beneficiary’s tax rate. You can get more information abut this at the RDSP blog.

Although as an aside, I might just note that although the RRSP rollover is certainly a step in the right direction, I, for one, would really like to see the federal government allow the rollover of RESPs into RDSPs for our kids.

The second change is the ability to carry forward entitlements for the Canada Disability Savings Grant and Bond for up to 10 years. Which means that someone opening a plan now will be able to claim the Grant for both 2008 and 2009.

Most of us are, unfortunately, pretty familiar with the issue around guardianship and the RDSP. And well aware that because the laws governing legal representation are provincial, unlike BC, families in Nova Scotia do not have the benefit of Representation Agreements.

And although PLAN has proposed various short term solutions to the federal government to deal with this issue, the feds apparently prefer for it to "be done right" and wait for the provinces and territories to make the necessary legislative reforms. The new carry forward rules will at least mean that people will not be penalized while we await movement on that issue.

For each province to implement something resembling British Columbia's Representation Agreement does appear to be the best option. As noted on the RDSP blog, people with disabilities, families, seniors and others who have used Representation Agreements certainly seem to report positive experiences with these Agreements.

And as also noted on the RDSP blog, Canada's recent ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities should provide an added incentives for provinces to take another look at the Representation Agreement.

And, so, it marches on.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Live and in Person ... aka Shameless Self Promotion

And if that's not enough to scare you away, nothing will.

But just in case anyone is still interested, I will be giving a presentation on "Legal Capacity and Supported Decision Making" (aka "Guardianship - Do I Need It and How Can I Get it Without Losing an Arm and a Leg?") next Saturday, April 17th, 2010 @ 10:30 at the Alderney Gate Public Library, 60 Alderney Drive, Dartmouth.

The presentation is courtesy of the HACL so I thank them for that.

If you're even a semi-regular reader of this blawg, you will know the general direction in which I will be headed with this. In which case, what you just might find more interesting novel than anything I have to say is the first hand experience of a fellow parent who recently obtained guardianship of her son without a lawyer.

So I hope to see you there. Bring your thoughts and concerns. Ask your questions. We will do the best we can.

Update: And yeah, that Guardianship package, still a work in progress. But it is progressing. I still have another week, right?

Update II: Apparently registration is filling up fast. Which might have been one thing I forgot to mention - you can find registration details here.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bringing The Baby Home .. At Long Last

For what it's worth (and in the disability community it's worth is certainly debatable), the Personal Directives Act comes into force today.

The "much awaited" regulations can be found here.
[Also for what they're worth.]

Health Minister Maureen MacDonald said the new legislation goes beyond instructions for health care.

She said people will be able to assign someone to make sure their wishes for personal needs such as recreation and hygiene are followed.

"It means that people, and particularly, I imagine, people who are older or persons with disabilities, with perhaps some kind of a condition that has a degenerative element, would have the security of knowing that how they wish to be treated will be respected."
And that, right there, would appear to be the critical thing.

For a person with a degenerative condition, this legislation could be very useful. And for seniors planning ahead, much as one would have a Power of Attorney as part of an estate plan, so too would it make sense to have some form of personal directive, both for health care and other issues.

Enter the Personal Directives Act.

Meaning it's probably a good piece of legislation. For what it is.

As long as no one confuses it with what it's not. As some surely will.

That being said, if you're looking for information as to exactly how the process works under the Act ...
As of Thursday, forms will be available through the Justice Department website or through Service Nova Scotia offices, said Health Department spokesman Ryan Van Horne.

There will be two forms, one to appoint a delegate and the other to outline details of expected care and treatment. A booklet explaining the act also will be available.

"The Personal Directives Act covers a wide range of things, including personal-care decisions," Van Horne said.

"For example, if you are admitted to a nursing home and you are a vegetarian, you could ensure that you get a vegetarian diet or that you got fresh air for an hour a day."
Well, let's hope the legislation is good for a little more than just maintaining your vegetarian diet in long-term care.

Which, of course, it is. I just couldn't resist the snark, it seeming like such a strange example to give.

And as to why exactly it's taken so long to actually become law, welcome to politics in Nova Scotia.

The act was passed in May 2008 after it was introduced by Cecil Clarke, who was then the justice minister in the Conservative government. MacDonald couldn’t say why it has taken almost two years for the act to take effect, but she said regulations had to be written and staff in health-care settings and elsewhere had to be trained in the new rules.

Van Horne said officials had hoped to bring the act into force last fall but it got sidelined by the H1N1 crisis.
Yeah, those regulations. They are, after all, both lengthy and substantial.

Well, we can, I suppose, chalk at least one thing up for our beleagured NDP government.