Boring Adult Stuff like Powers of Attorney, Wills, and appointing a guardian for my child were on my to-do list for an embarrassingly high number of years. For years I (wrongly) believed that because I had no assets aside from a giant pile of student loans I didn’t need any planning documents.
Eighteen months ago I finally got my act together. On the pain in the butt scale, I’d rate it a 6.5 for having to find the time to make an appointment, arrange all the paperwork, seek and ask a guardian, and have a really important conversation with myself and my spouse about medical interventions. And it honestly wasn’t that cheap, either. But the truth is that it was a small amount of hassle for a whole bunch of peace of mind and I felt actual relief when it was done. And now I can forget all about it unless my circumstances change.
If you don’t yet have your act together here is an overview of what documents you might need and who can help. It probably goes without saying, but this post isn’t legal advice at all, and you should definitely seek the advice of a professional for your own personal situation. There are low or no cost services out there too, so don’t let cost be the reason you don’t get your act together.
What are we talking about?
Well, often when people say a “will” they are actually referring to a few different documents that you might need depending upon your situation.
Last Will and Testament: is a legal document that sets out what is to happen with your “estate” if you die. It also names an executor, who is the person that gets to handle all the stuff about your estate. Think about who is a good person to choose – a spouse isn’t always a good choice in the event your death was a shock and they are deeply grieving. Make sure your executor is someone you trust to carry it out, and that they’ve accepted the role. If you don’t have that special person in your life, BC Notaries Public may now legally carry out that role.
Your will is registered with the province. When you die your executor will have an infinitely easier, faster, and possibly cheaper time taking care of your things as they are unlikely to need to retain the services of a lawyer to go to court to sort it out.
You can use the DIY kits available cheaply online or in book stores, but they seem to only be good for extremely simple cases – if you have children or complicated financials, they’re not going to work. They are good for getting organized, but a lawyer or notary is a much better way of making sure things are done right.
Enduring Power of Attorney: is another legal document, but this one is for when you are alive. An EPOA determines who may act on your behalf in the event of a stroke, car accident, etc in which you were physically unable to take care of your own financial and legal matters. AN EPOA does NOT cover health decisions, for that you need a different document.
Representation Agreement: is a legal document that gives a person you’ve appointed the ability to make decisions regarding your personal and health care should you become unable to. This includes scenarios like where you live, and what medical treatments you undergo. There are different kinds of Representation Agreements and only some of them allow the appointed person to make end of life decisions.
Advance Directives: is a slightly different legal document in that you get to state what health care you do or don’t want if you’re unable to make those decisions, such as CPR or life support. With an Advance Directive, no one has to make the decisions for you, but it clearly states what you have chosen, and it must be followed.
Who can help you?
- In New West, there are (at the time of this writing) eight notaries who can help you and quite a few close by in neighbouring Burnaby and Coquitlam.
- You can also use the services of a lawyer, and there are a number of those in our area.
- If you’re experiencing financial barriers, try Access Pro Bono or politely let our wonderful library know you’re interested. I asked on Twitter and they said it was something on their radar for the future so it won’t hurt to let them know you’d be interested too.
— NWPLibrary (@NWPLibrary) January 23, 2016
- If you are over 55, I understand Century House has also offered it to their members in the past.
- And ask your friends. People who have gotten it done will have an opinion about who they used and whether it was a good experience. Don’t be afraid to talk about this, either.
One more thing:
A lot of people are opting to also pre-pay for the cost of their funeral. To do that, you’ll need to contact a funeral home and make arrangements with them.
So, get ‘er done, New West!