Power of Attorney for Autistic Family Member?

When your child on the Autism Spectrum, comes of age, what do you do to help them with their financial decisions? Many folks on the spectrum can deal with money, and will have no issues with money, but for others there will be a need to have safeguards put in place to protect them and help them with their money (and financial decisions).

My assumption had been, that (if need be) for my son, I would simply set up a Power of Attorney, and that would help protect my son, however, I learned from another parent who has a son that is older than 18, that this is not the case.

Since Autism is viewed as a mental incapacity, a Power of Attorney can usually not be used. The simple explanation I can give, is that due to the mental handicap, the person cannot delegate their decisions using a power of attorney, because they do not understand (i.e. competency) what they are delegating or what they are signing. When my friend told me this one, I had one of those, “Oh crap!”, moments.

What need to be done in these situations is setting up a parent as the Statutory guardian for the child (or family member), and this (unfortunately) is a very daunting task, where a lawyer is needed to file documents with the courts (because the Power of Attorney can be done (in most cases) using simple kits that are available on-line). I am sure there are folks that feel they are competent enough to do this on their own, but from what I can decipher (so far) of the documentation I am reading a lawyer will be needed (in my case).

I will (most likely) be setting this up for my son, however, this only needs to be in place by the time he turns 18 (I think). My friend has promised to give me a further tutorial on what he has gone through (and it does not sound like a cheap process either). I make the not cheap comment due to the comment in the Statutory Guardian documentation:

The Public Guardian and Trustee charges a fee of $382.00 plus HST of $49.66 for processing an application for statutory guardianship, under the authority of s.8 of the Public Guardian and Trustee Act.

This article is a “heads up” for those parents out there who might have had the same assumptions I had about Power of Attorney, I will be writing more about this topic as I learn about it (I suspect I might even bend the ear of a few of my Financial Blogging associates to get me through all of this).

Relevant sites:

  • Guardian of Propertywebsite from the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario.
  • Becoming a Guardian another Government of Ontario Website.
  • www.e-laws.gov.on.ca  All the laws for the Province of Ontario
  • www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca. This is the website for the Ministry of the Attorney General. It includes bulletins and background about power of attorney, guardianship, the Public Guardian and Trustee and related matters. It also includes copies of the various forms needed to file an application to replace this office, power-of-attorney kits and the like.

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World Autism Awareness Day

Today we celebrate an important day in my household, my daughter’s birthday. It is also World Autism Awareness Day or as we call it in my home, Thursday (depending on the year). Allow me to ramble a little on the topic (apologies for those looking for financial discussions, I’ll be back after the Easter Weekend). 

I have written a great deal about RDSPs (Registered Disability Savings Plans) and how key they are for parents of children with Autism, to help plan for their child’s future, and in there I have also written a few snippets about the life of a Parent with a child on the Autism Spectrum, but let me touch on a few more things to maybe help some folks have a better understanding of the challenges, for parents of kids on the spectrum.

I wrote a while ago about Giving Advice to parents of kids on the spectrum, and while that article was a little raw, it does sum up some of the problems Parents have (and I’d like to point out not just for parents of kids with Autism, parents of kids with disabilities (visible or not) and some parents in general have the same issues). I try to offer advice to parents I speak with, only if asked, but I must admit that sometimes I feel the need to share my “wisdom” on the subject a bit too much (so the finger points at me as well). I think all parents are trying as hard as they can, just try to support them, and you are helping.

Rhys is our last child, and I think that was a good thing, in that, we learned a great deal from our 3 daughters in terms of parenting skills, and a fair amount has been transferable to Rhys. All three girls were “gifted” in different ways, so we learned a great deal about how to deal with the educational system, and the problems getting smart kids a good education in the public system (also from my late Mother-in-Law who was in charge of the Learning Disabilities Association of Halton, and from my Parents, as my eldest brother has disabilities as well). From these experiences, and after talking to the local public schools, we decided to take on the extra financial burden of putting Rhys in a private school, because Rhys is unique in that he is very high functioning and thus doesn’t really fit into the “Classic” autism programs, but nor does he fit into the regular school programs. I wrote about getting Rhys’ school fees as a medical expense, so we get  a little help, but Mrs. C8j went back to work mostly to help out in this area as well (no one is complaining here, just explaining).

Keep in mind that marriages that have children on the spectrum have a higher risk of divorce (but I suspect this is also true for parents of kids with all disabilities), and at times there is stress in all relationships, but I think Mrs. C8j and I are doing fine in that aspect. 

Do I want my son “cured”? I am really not sure what “cured” would mean? He is an amazingly complex boy, with an ability to surprise you constantly, what am I curing him of?

  • Do I wish he could deal with social interactions better? Yes, but I was an incredibly awkward kid socially, it is just I was ludicrously extraverted (and obnoxious). Rhys is learning slowly about social interactions, I don’t know where this will lead.
  • Would I love to see him be able to go to “regular” school? Maybe, I don’t really know, “regular” school never did me any big favors, it was only when I went to University that I started to realize my own gifts.
  • Is the world a better place with my son in it? Absolutely, Yes

So why would I want him “cured”? Please remember we are lucky that Rhys is high functioning, in that he talks, walks and if you saw him you really wouldn’t notice anything (except that he is only 10 but the size of a 14-year-old, but I suspect that is genetics). I have friends and have met folks who have children with Severe Autism, and I think they would give anything to have a child like Rhys, and their definition of “cured” would be different from mine.

In my life I am blessed with many things, and my children are my biggest blessing (and my wife, family and friends as well).


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Disability Tax Credit: Please Do It Yourself

Preface: I am writing this in a careful way, since the firms I am NOT mentioning by name seem quite litigious in nature (i.e. they like suing folks), and I am a simple Gonzo Personal Finance Blogger, but I am very UNHAPPY to read of these “services”.

I have written (previously) about getting the Disability Tax Credit from the CRA and the steps I have to take to receive them for my son, and I may have portrayed the process as being extremely hard ( it can be), however, I have inadvertently also brought into play a whole new Service Provider, that of the “Disability Tax Credit Adviser”.

These Advisory firms offer their services, which at first blush seem genuine, to help folks who are disabled (or parents of disabled folks) get their Disability Tax Credits from the CRA. While these firms seem to want to help people who are disabled get the tax breaks that they deserve, they do it for a very steep price.

Most of these services will not charge a “client” anything up front, and they will either help your Doctor fill in the forms, or better still they will supply their own “Doctor” for a diagnosis. This again sounds fair enough, in that some Doctors may not know the correct verbiage to use, however, this still must be the professional’s opinion (as they are the one who signs the form).


The Official BCM Seal of Disapproval. 

What might be the Disability Tax Credit Service company’s “cut” ? I have a few samples from a few of the sites I am aware of:

  • “…our fee is 20% of the amount you receive…”
  • Others can charge up to 30% “of the amount you receive”

This (in my opinion) is a ridiculously high fee for a service that can be done by yourself (or by an accountant). If you go to the Testimonial sections of many of these sites, you will see that folks can receive large settlements from the CRA, (upwards of $10,000), however, these companies will then ask to be paid 20% of the settlement or $2000.

I am worried that folks who are “at wits end” might turn to one of these firms, when they should do it themselves, or maybe they should contact an Accountant (or Tax expert (like H&R Block)) to try to get their Tax Credits.

There are allegations that the “commission” charged, by some of these firms, is not just on Disability Tax Credit portion of the tax refund, it is in fact 20-30% of ALL of the tax refund received by the “client”. There are now stories coming forward of the CRA auditing the Disability Claims prepared by some of these firms, and the CRA disallowing the claims (and asking for all settlement money be returned to the CRA (the whole credit, including any fees paid)).

I have been quite critical of the Pay Day Loan services, for being Vultures preying on desperate people,  but if the allegations that I have read are true (I include links to articles in the Star and the CBC for you to form your own opinions) these folks should have a special place in Hell for taking advantage of Disabled Folks (and their families), this way. Let me be a little more clear:

I implore anyone seeking help to receive the Disability Tax Credit to not use any service that charges a “percentage of settlement” fee for their services.

Do it yourself!!! Or Find a service with a set flat fee!

Articles from newspapers about some “Disability Tax Credit Services” firms and the allegations levelled against them:

If there are folks who have used these services, please feel free to leave a comment about your experience.

Editor’s Note

I noticed a while back that many of these “Disability Tax Credit Service Companies” seem to come up in advertising on my site (especially those articles that talked about the RDSP or Disability Tax Credit), and these firms advertise themselves as an advocate for disabled Canadians. I have blocked their ads and as new firms come up, I will investigate (as best I can) and will block any that I feel charge a ridiculous service fee.

If there are other ads on this site you find offensive, feel free to leave a comment, I will investigate them and block them, if I agree with you.



Autism and Advice

I promised myself that this year I would write more about me and this may mean writings like this, which is a bit of a rant, which I started writing about 2 years ago when I was feeling quite sorry for myself, but I publish this in hopes it helps someone understand better what Parents with children who have disabilities (both visible and not visible) deal with every day.

In this world there are many well meaning folk who love to feel they are being helpful, and thus enjoy handing out advice even in situations where they really have no bloody idea what they are talking about. I started receiving that kind of advice from day 1 of my life, but I started to notice it more the day after my first child was born. I started getting tons of helpful hints from friends, who didn’t have kids (?). I realize you can know a lot about raising kids if you were the oldest sibling in a large family and such, but maybe wait until you are asked to give that advice out?

Since our son was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum, my wife and I have received a myriad of advice from professionals and from friends and some have been quite useful and good and some was just bad or harmful.

Some examples of good advice:

  • The friend that told us to go look into an RDSP as it might be a good idea for long-term planning, and I have tried to help other folks understand this important tool for your child’s future as well (see the RDSP menu tab at the top of this page).
  • The speech pathologist who told us that she didn’t think this was a speech issue, but handed my wife a great book, “The Out of Sync Child”, (you can find it on Amazon here The Out-of-Sync Child), and that described our son (at the time) and gave us hope.
  • The wonderful friend that recommended a local Co-op Nursery for our son.  They provided a philosophy and environment where our son could be successful.

Some bad advice?

  • The neurologist who dismissed any of my wife’s concerns about our son’s development, and went as far as to say, “Oh you are one of THOSE parents” (after she admitted she had read some books and done some research) and he then admitted he hadn’t actually been listening to us for the past twenty minutes, because he had been “observing” our son (OK fine, and then he completely misdiagnosed him).
  • The well-meaning folks who think, “All he needs is more structure”, “All he needs is less structure”, “He just needs some discipline”, etc., and then feel it is their God given right to tell us or even worse to step in and interfere.   Let me be crystal clear, when you say this or do this to any parent, you might as well be saying, “You are a lousy parent and you are ruining your child”, because that is what they hear.
  • Yelling, demeaning or embarrassing a parent because their child is not behaving to YOUR standard, and may in fact being doing the absolute best that they can at that moment.  (This happened to Momma C8j with little C8j in tow at a local grocery store)

I think what a lot of parents want, when they have kids with  disabilities (be it visible or invisible), is for someone to do some Empathetic listening with them. Empathetic listening implies you listen and don’t try to solve the problem, simply let them talk and interject concern or elation in the right spots. A lot of times these folks just need to let it out with a friend, they may already know the answers, they just want to let some of their inner feelings out. If you watched my “It’s not the nail” video on my best of post, that is a good example of someone who wants empathetic listening.

With kids on the Autism Spectrum, given it is such a broad diagnosis, there are not many “one size fits all” solutions to the child’s problems, so bombarding your friends with the latest story of how stem cells might fix your kid, or chelation might be the answer may not be what they need from a friend.

Maybe what they need is a sympathetic ear? If folks want advice, they will ask, and when that happens, give them your best advice, but until then…


Child Disability Benefit Application Letter (Template)

For the sake of completeness, and because a lot of comments have asked, I am posting a letter template to apply for the Child Disability Benefit from the CRA. Remember from my post you must first have a signed T2201 Disability Tax Credit Certificate from a recognized medical authority about your child’s disability (in our case a Psychologist from CHEO filled in the form for him being on the Autism Spectrum). Next you need to fill in the RC66 – Canada Child Benefits Application Form but that would only make your benefits start now (this tax year). Once you receive a positive response from the CRA for your disability claim, you can send this letter.

The important thing to remember, depending on  your child’s disability, benefits can be retroactively given to you, however, you must ask for it, and that is what this letter Template is set up for. It is also important to have your medical professional have their diagnosis backdated as well (preferably in the T2201) to support your claim (Mrs. C8j reminded me of that one).

The letter does not need to be very complicated as you can see, but you must ask and be specific for what you want.

Remember this is a template so fill in your own information but note that the important phrase:

Mental Functions Necessary for everyday life

is specific, you need to include your child’s diagnosis if this is not his (or her) diagnosis.

Disclaimer: This is an example template of letters that need to be sent to the CRA to receive the Child Disability Benefit retroactively from birth. I do not imply any guarantees with this letter, nor am I saying this is enough to get the CDB, this is simply supplied as a starting point for folks who aren’t sure how to do this. The CRA decides each case individually the clearer your letter is, with as much information as possible should help your request. You should consult your Doctor, and or an Accountant if you are unsure of how to proceed.

Mr. Big Cajun Man
Big Cajun Hacienda,
Ottawa, Ontario
H0H 0H0
bigcajunman @ NoSpammersPlease.com
(613) 555-1212

Big Cajun Social Insurance:  123 456 789

To Whom it May Concern,

Please find enclosed a copy of the Form 2201 Disability Tax Credit for my son Little Caj Man  (SIN: 123 456 789), as well as a copy of the CRA approval of his Disability Tax Credit (retroactive to 2010).

Rhys was born on January 33rd 2010, as the Form 2201 outlines his disability in the area of Mental Functions Necessary for everyday life, I would ask that the Child Disability Benefit be paid for the tax years: 2010, 2011, and 2012  (along with the current year).

If you have any questions or need more information please contact me.


Big Cajun Man
123 456 789


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