It can always be helpful to plan ahead, but particularly in the time of COVID-19, many are faced with the opportunity to reflect. Though always a difficult topic to think about or discuss, now might be a good time to think about what documentation (if any) you have in place regarding your estate planning, and what might be necessary to articulate your wishes.
Preparing a Will gives you control over a number of things that may, in the absence of a Will, not happen the way that you would want them to. Among other things, these include the ability to specify who you wish to administer your estate, who the beneficiaries will be and what assets they will be entitled to, and who you wish to be guardians in the event you pass away leaving minor children. More broadly, with a thoughtful estate plan, you can seek to minimize or eliminate probate fees that may otherwise apply after you pass.
In addition, Powers of Attorney and Representation Agreements are helpful planning tools you may put in place to take effect during your lifetime.
Broadly speaking, a Power of Attorney allows you to appoint a decision-maker or decision-makers to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf. An enduring Power of Attorney takes effect immediately after you sign it, and its authority continues in the event that you lose capacity to make decisions for yourself. If you lose capacity prior to making a Power of Attorney, a committeeship order may need to be sought, which is a far more complex and expensive process than preparing a Power of Attorney.
A Representation Agreement, generally, allows you to appoint an adult or several adults to make health care and personal care decisions on your behalf. If you do not have a Representation Agreement, a health care provider must seek consent from your next-of-kin using a ranked list prescribed by law, and there are limitations on the types of decisions that individuals will be legally entitled to make on your behalf.
Taking steps now to get your estate planning up to date can save those close to you a lot of time and cost in the future. For more information on how we can assist, please contact one of our Trusts and Estate law practice group lawyers.
This article is intended to be an overview of the law and is for informational purposes only. Readers are cautioned that this article does not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied on as such. Rather, readers should obtain specific legal advice in relation to the issues they are facing.