LIFE LETTER MATURE
Estate Planning Basics
Many mistakenly believe that you have to be Rich-and-Famous before you need to do any estate planning. The reality is that estate planning is for anyone who wants to ensure their wishes are known and carried out when they cannot speak for themselves.
Married, single, or living common-law, there are several legal documents you should have to leave instructions about how you want to be cared for if you can't communicate your wishes. And a very important document that physically and financially protects your loved ones when you die.
1. A Will is the most effective way of declaring your wishes about who gets what and how much after you die. If you die without a Will (known as Intestate), the laws of your province will make these decisions for you. Do you really want that to happen?
It is best to have a lawyer prepare your Will for you. You can make changes to your Will as often as you like.
2. A Power of Attorney (POA) is a written document that gives someone you choose the power to act on your behalf. A POA is very useful when you are not disabled, mentally incompetent or otherwise incapacitated. For example, John and Mary named their oldest son as POA to pay bills, file taxes and manage their bank accounts while they took an extended trip. Ruth gave her daughter POA while she recovered from surgery.
3. An Enduring Power of Attorney ensures that the person you name will be able to look after your financial affairs if you are incapacitated and can't do it yourself. It usually takes a written declaration by two doctors to verify that you are that ill.
4. A Healthcare Power of Attorney (may be referred to as Personal Directive or Living Will) designates someone to make your medical decisions should you become unable to do so yourself. You will need to answer questions like, "Who do I want making life-and- death medical decisions for me?", and, "How long do I want to remain on life support if my condition won't improve?" Hard questions, but they deserve thoughtful, legally binding answers.
Proper Estate Planning is much more than just a few hundred dollars in legal documents. Consideration must be given to such things as income taxes, child guardianship and business continuation. You should work with professionals on these matters.
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