Helpful Information for Travelling and Migrating Seniors

BC Notaries Share Helpful Information for Travelling and Migrating Seniors

in Advance of National Seniors Day, October 1

September 25, 2014

Vancouver, BC – When the rain and dark clouds return to BC for the fall and winter months, tens of thousands of “snowbirds” will migrate south or abroad for the winter. In honour of National Seniors Day on Wednesday, October 1, 2014, the Society of Notaries Public of BC is sharing a few helpful tips for seniors and the many British Columbian boomers who head south in the winter for short or extended stays.

“Travellers who will be away from the province for an extended period of time, or who may be at greater risk of needing medical care should ensure they have appropriate documents in place before heading off for the winter,” says Derek Smoluk, a Kamloops Notary. “Many of today’s seniors are active travellers who have dual residences or regular winter vacation destinations so a Power of Attorney and healthcare plans can be important.”

“There is nothing worse than being stuck out of country in an accident or with a serious medical condition and no one having legal authority to act on your behalf to coordinate care, ensure payment with insurance companies, pay medical or travel bills, and arrange to get you home,” adds Laurie Salvador, a Sidney Notary.

A Power of Attorney, which can be drawn up by a BC Notary or lawyer, allows a capable adult to appoint a person or persons to handle their financial and legal matters in the event they are unable to do so themselves or need assistance. The document also specifies whether these individuals are allowed to act separately or required to act together.

“Because of the financial authority conveyed, it is critical that the person fully understands what powers they are granting with this document and have complete trust in the person they are appointing,” says Akash Sablok, President of the Society of Notaries Public of BC and Vancouver Notary Public. “BC Notaries quite often encounter situations where Power of Attorney is needed for someone traveling outside of the country.”

Another useful tool is a Representation Agreement, which appoints a Representative, or multiple Representatives, to make decisions regarding an individual's finances, health and personal care in the event they are unable to communicate their own wishes. This is especially important if they don’t have a spouse; or no spouse and no children; or if their children are in conflict with one another or would not be good decision makers. Depending on how the Representation Agreement is prepared, a designated Representative's authority can include:

  • routine finances
  • decisions regarding healthcare, personal care, and limited legal affairs
  • refusal or consent to life support treatment and care
  • consent to less common medical procedures/treatment
  • consent to treatment the Adult approved while capable but since losing capacity has refused consent
  • deciding on living arrangements for the Adult including choosing a care facility

A BC Notary can help determine the appropriate scope for specific Representative(s).

Additionally, travellers should make two photocopies of all travel documents in case of emergency or if their documents are lost or stolen. Leave one copy with a friend or relative at home, and carry the other copy, stored separately from the originals. They should also make copies of their passport ID page, foreign visa (if applicable), itinerary, hotel confirmation, airline ticket, driver’s license and credit cards. It is a good idea for card holders to call the credit card company and inform them of what country they will be in, as this may prevent the credit card company from denying charges that are out of the normal. Also, individuals should make sure to look into what medical services their health insurance will cover in another country, and purchase additional health insurance if needed.

For those who take prescriptions or other medications, make sure to pack more than enough for the trip in case of unexpected delays. Carry medications in their original labeled containers in a carry-on bag in case baggage is lost or delayed. A letter from a physician may be needed, since some countries have restrictions on bringing prescription or non-prescription medications into the country without medical documentation. Before departing, travelers are advised to contact the foreign government office accredited to Canada of the country they plan to visit to make sure the medications or medical supplies they intend to bring are allowed into the country. If an individual needs to use needles or syringes, carry a medical certificate explaining that the needles or syringes are for medical use.

The Government of Canada’s website has more information for Canadians receiving medical care outside of the country.

Regardless of the type of document being kept safeguarded in Canada while on vacation, it is crucial that one’s trusted Representative can get them, if needed. If the documents are safe at home, make sure someone has a key and knows where to find them. If they are in a safe, the Executor or Attorney will need the combination or key. As a service, some Notaries will store these documents for clients, but again, the Executor/Attorney needs to have that information.

“Also make sure the Notary is well informed as to who should have access to those documents and under what circumstances,” says Kristy Martin, a Victoria Notary. “It might be better if their legal services provider already has the documents for quick access.”

Salvador adds that many people use safety deposit boxes to store their important documents but notes that this can become a problem if the Executor/Attorney does not have access to the box. If the Attorney/Executor is not actually signed on to the deposit box, they would need to produce an original Power of Attorney or Will and the key in order to access the contents. The only other alternative would be for the person to take their Attorney/Executor to the bank before they leave to sign them on as a signatory to the box.

Getting all of these documents in order before a vacation can take some of the worry out of traveling outside the country this winter.

The Society of Notaries Public of B.C. represents more than 320 highly trained Notary professionals. Most have locally owned and operated offices and all provide personal assistance to clients around the province. Individuals, families, and businesses seek the services of B.C. Notaries for a wide range of non-contentious legal matters, including residential and commercial real estate transfers, mortgage refinancing, Wills and advanced healthcare planning, Powers of Attorney, and other important documents.

The Notary’s Tradition of Trust spans 2,000 years. Notaries first came to British Columbia over 100 years ago. They continue to serve their valued clients and their communities across the province.

To find a Notary, or for more information, visit


Media contact:
Brenda Jones

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