As we ring in a new year, many of us make a number of resolutions: do more exercise, lose weight, less screen time and more books, etc. Another goal to consider – get your legal affairs in order. We will go into more detail in future blog posts, but here are some goals to add to your resolutions for the upcoming year.
Make a will (or if you have one – well done! – ensure that it is up-to-date)
According to a 2012 LawPro survey, 56% of Canadians don’t have a will. Don’t be one of those Canadians! What happens if you die without a will? The Succession Law Reform Act – not you – will determine who your beneficiaries will be. You won’t decide who your trustee (executor) is or who gets your treasured heirlooms, and you may miss out on some beneficial tax planning opportunities. What you may do is create confusion and conflict, generate extra expense, legal work and unnecessary delays. This can be avoided if you have a will.
Do some advance care planning and ensure you have adequate powers of attorney in place
A power of attorney is a legal document whereby you appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf while you are still alive. You are likely to want to decide who that person will be, and if you have a power of attorney in place, this will happen. There are two kinds: one for personal care (living will) allows you to appoint someone to make decisions regarding matters such as hygiene, shelter, food and medical care when you are deemed unable to do so. The one for property grants someone the power to take care of your financial/legal matters (except making a will) either while you are capable or when you are not capable (you get to decide). Again, you are likely to want to determine who this person is who is making important decisions on your behalf, so be proactive and ensure that your affairs are handled according to your wishes.
Make lists – and ensure that someone knows where they are and that they are secure
Bank accounts, passwords, investments, real estate holdings, insurance policies – does someone know where these things are and how to access them? Do you know where they are and how to access them? What about your on-line presence – social media accounts, blogs, etc.? Can someone access those? Consider starting the new year out by gathering all of this important information, ensuring it is updated, and letting someone know where the information can be found.
Just a few resolutions to add to your list, ones that will be appreciated by your loved ones. Happy New Year!