Meeting your legal needs
All lawyers and paralegals providing legal services in Ontario must be licensed by the Law Society of Ontario. Lawyers can help you with all types of legal issues: family or criminal matters, civil litigation, wills, powers of attorney and estate matters, real estate transactions and administrative law matters. Licensed paralegals can represent you in Small Claims Court, at hearings before tribunals (such as the Landlord and Tenant Board) and for minor criminal charges where the maximum term of imprisonment is six months. The Law Society of Ontario has a number of services to help you find a lawyer or paralegal.
Law society referral service
If you have a legal problem, this service will connect you to a lawyer or licensed paralegal who will provide a free 30-minute consultation to help you determine your rights and options.
Legal Aid Ontario
Legal Aid Ontario provides legal assistance to low-income individuals and disadvantaged communities through a broad range of services. This service also includes information and referrals to duty counsel, community legal clinics or other agencies. Legal aid staff will ask you questions to help you find the service that best fits your legal issue. Legal Aid Ontario also funds numerous independent, community-based legal aid clinics. Help is available in over 300 languages.
Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE)
ACE is a specialty community legal clinic that provides low-income seniors with legal services, including advice and representation to individual and group clients, public legal education, law reform and community development activities. ACE serves clients 60 years of age and over who live in the Greater Toronto Area, and may also provide services to seniors outside of Toronto if a case is of significance to the seniors’ community.
Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO)
CLEO is a community legal information clinic that produces free public legal education materials about a variety of issues, including Power of Attorney, elder abuse, etc. These publications describe the laws as simply and clearly as possible to help people understand and exercise their legal rights. CLEO does not give legal advice.
ARCH Disability Law Centre
This specialty legal aid clinic is dedicated to defending and advancing the equality rights of people with disabilities in Ontario. ARCH legal services are provided by lawyers and articling students who report to a volunteer elected Board of Directors, at least half of whom are people with disabilities.
HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO)
HALCO is a community-based legal clinic that provides free legal assistance to people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. Along with providing summary legal services, HALCO provides public legal education and works on law reform and community development initiatives.
Ontario Human Rights Code
The Human Rights Code guarantees Ontarians equal rights and opportunities without discrimination in areas such as employment, housing and services. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in areas of employment, services, goods, facilities, housing accommodation, contacts and membership in trade and vocational associations. The Ontario Human Rights Code’s protection against age discrimination extends to all persons over the age of 18.
Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee
This office delivers services that safeguard the legal, personal and financial interests of certain private individuals and estates. It plays a role in:
- protecting mentally incapable people
- protecting the public’s interest in charities
- searching for heirs to estates that the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee administers
- investing perpetual care funds
- dealing with dissolved corporations.
The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee will conduct an investigation when it receives information that an individual may be incapable and at risk of suffering serious financial or personal harm and no alternative solution is available. An investigation may result in the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee asking the court for permission to make decisions on the person’s behalf on a temporary or long-term basis.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the right to make decisions on your behalf.
A Continuing Power of Attorney for Property is a legal document that allows the person you name to make financial decisions for you. This authority can be used by that person while you are still mentally capable of making decisions yourself or even in the event that you become mentally incapable of making your own decisions about your property. In some cases, this Power of Attorney can direct that the named person only act if you are mentally incapable.
A General or non-continuing Power of Attorney for Property is a legal document that only grants authority to another person while you are mentally capable. If you become mentally incapable, the authority ends.
A Limited Power of Attorney for Property is a legal document that allows the person you name to make decisions that are restricted in some way. This might include a “bank Power of Attorney”, which only affects assets that are in a named financial institution. This Power of Attorney may be limited to a specific period of time (for example, while you are out of the country) or for a specific asset (for example, a house that is to be sold).
A Power of Attorney for Personal Care allows the person you name to make Personal Care decisions for you if you become mentally incapable. These decisions may involve shelter, safety, hygiene, nutrition, clothing and/or health care. If you don’t have a Power of Attorney for Personal Care in place and become incapable of making decisions about medical care or admission to a long-term care home, a family member would still have the right to make most decisions for you under the Health Care Consent Act. However, if no one is willing or able to make decisions for you, the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee is required to make decisions on your behalf. This Power of Attorney can also provide directions to your decision maker about what kind of treatment you may want (or not want) in the event that you are incapable of telling anyone yourself. This Power of Attorney only takes effect if and when you are incapable.
The term “living will” refers to written directions or wishes about what medical care you may or may not want to have in the event you become incapable of making decisions about your care. Also known as an “Advance Medical Directive”, a living will must be taken into consideration by your substitute decision makers, but it may not be binding, depending on the circumstances at the time. Unlike a Power of Attorney for Personal Care, it does not appoint a decision maker.
The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee has developed a Power of Attorney Kit that can help you appoint the person you want to make decisions for you when you are no longer able to do so for yourself. Learn more about the Power of Attorney kit.
Advance care planning
Advance care planning is about making choices while you are competent about how you wish to be cared for in the future if you become incapable of making decisions. You can take steps now to ensure that your wishes are followed by providing someone you trust with the authority to act on your behalf.
- read about what every older Canadian should know about planning for possible loss of independence
- learn about the process of advance care planning and find helpful tools at Speak Up Ontario
- contact the Alzheimer Society of Ontario or your local Alzheimer Society chapter to see if they offer advance care planning seminars in your community
- print and fill-out a wallet card with important information in the event of an emergency
Organ and tissue donation
It’s important that you talk to your family and friends about your decision to donate organs and tissue so they can understand, support and respect your wishes in the future. Even if you have signed a donor card, you still need to register your consent. By registering your consent to donate, you ensure that your donation decision is recorded and made available to the right people at the right time.
If you’d like to register as a donor, you can: