Whether you’re celebrating Diwali, winter solstice, Hanukkah or Christmas, when you gather around the table to share a meal with loved-ones, estate planning is probably the last thing you want to talk about.
“Estate planning is a detailed process that takes time and consideration. It also requires us to face our mortality and fears, which makes it difficult to take the first steps. But planning is crucial to ensuring your wishes are upheld, and it all starts with a conversation,” says Lesley Russell, CBM Lawyers Associate specializing in Wills/Estates/Trusts and Personal Planning (Powers of Attorney and Representation Agreements).
A knowledgeable and empathetic lawyer can help you understand your options, and guide you in making decisions about your Will and estate plan.
Before and after you meet with your lawyer, you can talk with your loved ones to gain insight and be better prepared to make those decisions. In addition to your own wishes, do you know those of your loved ones? Can anyone around the holiday table share a story of their experience as an executor?
Having a Will not only ensures your wishes are in place, it gives your loved ones’ the legal tools they need when the time comes to deal with your estate.
3 conversation starters for your holiday gathering
- Wills and Estates. “There’s a misconception that preparing a Will is simple, and some people try to cut costs by preparing their own,” Lesley says, but that can cause problems for your loved ones once you’re gone. “An experienced estate lawyer will not simply write down your wishes for the distribution of your estate. They’ll also carefully review your financial assets and personal circumstances to help you make informed decisions. Their priority is to assist you in preparing a Will and estate plan that reflects your wishes and gives you peace of mind knowing loved ones will be looked after.” Provisions in your Will that gift your estate to your loved ones are important, and so are the provisions giving your executor the powers and authorities they need to administer your estate. Make executing your Will easier by planning ahead.
- Powers of Attorney. This is a separate legal document establishing the people you want to make financial decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so. “If you own assets, you should prepare a Power of Attorney. If you don’t have one in place and you become incapable, then someone will have to make a court application to be named your committee, which is a long and expensive process,” she says. “Even if you have joint assets or a spouse, without a Power of Attorney (or court order), no one has any legal right to act on your behalf.” A Power of Attorney is not a fill-in-the-blank document. When preparing one, a good lawyer will go through the various considerations so that your document is specific to your financial situation and needs.
- Representation Agreements. This is a separate legal document establishing the people you want to make healthcare and personal care decisions on your behalf should you be unable to do so. “If you don’t have one, the laws in BC will put this decision on the next available relative, subject to the order set out in the law. The disadvantage of this option is that the person does not have full legal authority and is limited in what decisions they can make on your behalf,” she says. “When preparing a Representation Agreement, a lawyer will also ensure it reflects your wishes specifically.”
Ready to start planning? To make an appointment with Lesley Russell or another member of the CBM Lawyers Wills, Estates and Trusts Team, email email@example.com, call 604-533-3821 or visit cbmlawyers.com.