Money matters

Authority Public Guardian and Trustee

After many years of marriage, Victor had been involuntarily separated from his wife, Sandy, due to her placement into residential care.

Sandy had been issued with a Certificate of Incapability, and without a valid Power of Attorney in place, the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) took responsibility for her financial affairs.

Victor regularly sought cooperation from the PGT to pay for Sandy’s medical equipment and medications. In addition, he had requested information from the PGT concerning the diversion of her pension, income tax filing and the PGT’s decision to involve a property management company to oversee the maintenance and operation of the jointly owned family home that he continued to live in. Victor was troubled because the property management company had obtained additional home insurance on the residence and charged it to Sandy’s account – a charge Victor felt was unnecessary. Victor had already purchased adequate home insurance for the property and provided proof of this to the PGT.

Victor was unhappy with several decisions made by the PGT while managing Sandy’s estate and said they had resulted in financial hardship for both of them. After trying to raise his concerns directly with the PGT and receiving what he felt was an unsatisfactory response, Victor filed a complaint with us.

We began our investigation by reviewing records of correspondence between Victor and the PGT. We determined that Victor had received limited and sometimes conflicting information about Sandy’s pension and income tax account. The PGT had made the decision to divert Sandy’s pension and file her taxes without income splitting and without informing Victor, who was affected by the decisions and had a co-management role to play. It became evident that there had been a breakdown of communication.

We determined that the PGT did not have clear information publicly available on this topic and asked if they would consider enhancing publications to include more information for Victor and other clients dealing with co-management of assets. We also determined that in Victor and Sandy’s case, the PGT did not clearly explain the roles and responsibilities of the property management company. Moreover, due to the communication difficulties that existed, the PGT did not receive confirmation of the home insurance coverage that Victor provided and as a result, the PGT property management company charged an unnecessary additional home insurance premium. As this expense could have been avoided, and because the PGT did not provide clear information or complete the letter of understanding as required by PGT policy, we asked the PGT to refund this amount to Victor and Sandy. We also asked the PGT to offer an apology for the unclear direction and misinformation provided.

The PGT apologized and provided a refund for the additional home insurance premium. Recognizing the need to address an underlying problem, the PGT is also working on enhancing its policies and publications to include more information for all clients and families about pensions, income tax preparation and the co-management of spousal and other joint assets. We believed these steps addressed the concerns raised by our investigation. Victor thanked us for the assistance we provided to him and his wife.

Category Seniors
Type Case Summary
Fiscal Year 2014
Location The Lower Mainland