- Last Will and Testament
- Powers of Attorney
- Health and Personal Care Documents
Last Will and Testament
A Will or Last Will and Testament is necessary:
- to distribute your estate to people you want to benefit.
- to appoint the correct person (executor) to distribute your estate.
- to appoint a guardian for children under 19 years of age.
- to reduce the cost and time that your loved ones will spend to settle your estate.
If you die without a Will in BC:
- the court will appoint an administrator to settle your estate. The administrator may not be the person that you want to administrate your estate.
- Your estate will be distributed according to the Estate Administration Act. Your spouse may not receive all of your estate and your spouse, children and other beneficiaries may be disadvantage by this distribution.
- The director of Child Protection will become the guardian of your minor children.
- You will have no control over your burial or cremation.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is a legal document whereby a person appoints one or more persons to handle their legal and financial matters. A Power of Attorney is an extremely powerful document and its affects should be carefully considered before granting one. You should consider granting a Power of Attorney to someone because if you experience an illness (i.e. stroke or Alzheimer's), are incapacitated or out of the country this prevents you from acting on your own behalf.
If you do not have a Power of Attorney and become mentally incapacitated;
- No one has the legal right (not even your spouse) to act on your behalf. If your real-estate, including your home, is held jointly with your spouse you will not be able to sell it. A signature from both you and your spouse and any other owners on title is required. If you are not mentally competent you are not authorized to sell real property.
- Without a Power of Attorney you may not be able to access investments in your own name such as RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) RIF or TFSA (Tax Free Savings Account), bank accounts, mutual funds or Guaranteed Investment Certificates.
- You may not even be able to complete your Annual Tax returns and may be subject to severe penalties and late fees by the Canada Revenue Agency.
- If you are incapacitated you can no longer appoint an Attorney. In this circumstance the Public Trustee will administer your affairs; alternatively a family member may be granted the right to take control of your affairs by the court by a legal appointment called a Committeeship. This is a costly and lengthy process that involves hiring a lawyer and the person appointed as the Committee may not be the person that you want to look after your finances. Many Committees (the person chosen by the court to manage your affairs) find the obligations placed on them by the court as onerous and intrusive.
Health and Personal Care Documents
A Representation Agreement is a legal document that provides for an adult to appoint a person to make decisions concerning their health care and personal care. A Representation Agreement allows one to have a say in their health care when they are incapacitated or not of sound mind. The adult who makes a Representation Agreement makes medical decisions via the agreement and leaves those decisions to be carried out by the representative ( usually a family member) only if the adult is incompetent. Making a Representative Agreement relieves family of friends from the emotional stress and scars from having to make very difficult medical decisions. Representative Agreements are essential if you do not have a spouse and have more than one child as each child may have different ideas about what decisions you would want to make concerning your healthcare. By making these decisions in advance you are in control and health care providers do not have to interpret thereby causing conflict between your children if they have different ideas about your healthcare.
Estate Information for Executors and Attorneys
It's really important to document what you own and where it is, along with identifying the key people in your estate plan. The attached document will help to make this information available to your executor and attorneys. Please keep it up to date over the years.