Estate planning goes beyond just preparing a will.
You have numerous tools at your disposal to make sure that you are taken care of in your elder years.
At its most basic, an estate plan includes:
1) A will
2) A power of attorney
3) A representation agreement or advance directive.
Together, these provide for your loved ones after your death while ensuring that you are taken care of during your elder years or during incapacity. More advanced plans can include various trusts as well, but those are beyond the scope of this article.
Preparing a Will
A will allows you to appoint a guardian for your children and an executor to administer your property after you pass away.
It also ensures that your estate is distributed according to your wishes, rather than according to the intestacy rules.
With the passing of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act (commonly called “WESA”) these rules have significantly changed.
For example, if you have a spouse and children then the surviving spouse is no longer automatically entitled to a life estate in the home, but does have the option to purchase the home. Additionally, marriage no longer revokes a prior will.
Furthermore, a common law partner is considered a spouse so more than one person may be considered a spouse for the purposes of sharing your estate.
What if I have a disability and can’t act alone?
The documents described below are meant to make your life easier if you are unable to act for yourself due to disability.
They are a kind of insurance in case you have a bad car accident or sudden illness that leaves you bedridden or without the capacity to understand what’s going on around you.
Power of Attorney
An enduring power of attorney allows another to manage all or some of your legal and financial affairs such as handling bill payments.
It can be made with or without restrictions and can even include the power to manage major transactions such as selling or refinancing real estate.
In case you become unable to speak for yourself, a representation agreement appoints another to make decisions on your behalf. There are two types:
Section 7 – A “limited agreement” that covers everyday decisions regarding health care matters such as medication use, dental care, surgeries, end of life care, and living arrangements.
Section 9 – A “general agreement” that is used for more complex health care decisions. They can include wide ranging powers such as the power to authorize refusal of life support or resuscitation.
Some people prefer to set out their wishes in an advance directive instead of granting another person a representation agreement.
While lacking the flexibility of a representation agreement, an advance directive ensures that your wishes will be followed and is another option to consider. It is a legally binding document allowing you to give advanced consent or refusal to a treatment.
What if I don’t have any of the above agreements in place?
Without a representation agreement and power of attorney in place, the only way to gain the power to represent an injured or ill loved one is by applying to the Supreme Court of British Columbia for committeeship. This can be a costly process.
The best way to approach estate planning is to consult with legal counsel to ensure your documents are properly drafted and executed.
Sundeep Gill is a knowledgeable and experienced Wills and Estates Lawyer in Surrey BC. Please contact him directly at (778) 565-4700 if you have any questions regarding your estate planning needs.