Important Documents You Need Besides a Will

Disclaimer: This article is intended for the purposes of providing information only and is to be used only for the purposes of guidance. This article is not intended to be relied upon as the giving of legal advice and does not purport to be exhaustive.

Life is unpredictable and sometimes things happen that were not part of the plan. That being said, we discussed before how important planning is and how a will protects those important people in your life. 

However, that is not where estate planning starts and ends.  There are other documents, for example, a power of attorney, that you will want to have in place.

In this blog post, we’ll go over some of the most important documents you should have besides a will to ensure that your loved ones are fully cared for and protected.

If you would like to learn more about how we help our clients with their estate planning, please visit here or book a call with us here.

power of attorney

What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives another person, known as an attorney for property or attorney for personal care, the power to make certain decisions for someone (known as the grantor) who has given them power.

In other words, this person will have similar powers and rights you have when it comes to making important decisions on your behalf, from financials to health care, if you are unable to make those decisions yourself.

In Ontario, there are two categories of Powers of Attorney:

  • Power of Attorney for Personal Care
  • Power of Attorney for Property

Let’s start with the power of attorney for property.  That category is further split into a continuing power of attorney or a non-continuing (general) power of attorney.

The difference between the two is within the name and the length of effectiveness. A continuing power of attorney will handle your financial affairs if you cannot, including if you are mentally incapable.

A non-continuing (general) power of attorney will cover your financial affairs, but not if you become mentally incapable. This type of power of attorney may be used if you are going to be away for an extended period of time and will need someone to handle your affairs in Ontario.

A Power of Attorney for Personal Care will cover personal decisions for you, such as decisions related to your health if you cannot make those decisions yourself.

Can I have a living will?

You may have heard the term “living will” before, but it is not recognized in Ontario. However, an advanced medical directive can be prepared that outlines your wishes in the event that you cannot make those decisions for yourself.

You may wonder how that differs from a power of attorney for personal care. A power of attorney for personal care appoints someone to make those decisions for you.  An advanced directive will not name any individual but will set out your wishes.

This is important to have if you have strong feelings about your medical care, such as whether or not to prolong your life in certain situations or if there are medical procedures or practices that you are morally opposed to.  Some clients choose to include their advanced directive with their power of attorney for personal care so that their attorney is aware of their wishes.

trust for children

Do I need a trust for my children?

Many parents leave their estates to their children in the event that both parents pass away.  However, it can be concerning to wonder if their child will be ready for that responsibility on their 18th birthday.

Our role as parents is to protect our children and sometimes that means protecting them from themselves. 

A trust is a legal entity that holds your estate on behalf of your beneficiaries. A trustee is appointed to distribute the estate as per your instructions. For example, that may mean allowing certain expenses (i.e. buying a home, university, etc.) while holding onto the bulk of the estate until the beneficiary reaches a certain age, such as the age of 25, when most persons are far more fiscally responsible than they were at, for instance, age 18.

Comprehensive Estate Planning

As you can see, there is more to estate planning than a will. Of course, each document mentioned above has its own legislative requirements to be valid and legally binding.

Speaking with a lawyer about your estate planning is a necessary step. Have the peace of mind that your family will not be unduly burdened with legal complications after you have passed.

Speak with us today about how we can ensure that your estate planning is comprehensive and fits your needs. Book a call here.

Estate Planning Designed For You

Disclaimer: This article is intended for the purposes of providing information only and is to be used only for the purposes of guidance. This article is not intended to be relied upon as the giving of legal advice and does not purport to be exhaustive.

It has been said that estate planning is a gift to those you love, and we wholeheartedly agree. We know that no one wants to think about the end of our lives. However, we cannot overstate the importance of having these conversations and making these plans. 

Too often, we have seen the pain and grief of a loss compounded by the stress and overwhelm of poor estate planning. 

Planning for the end of your life means taking into consideration your unique circumstances. Our lives are all different, and the plans for our estates must reflect that. 

This article outlines, at a very high level, how different factors influence your estate planning. Of course, we would be happy to speak further about your situation. You can book a consultation here [link] for more information. 

Estate Planning in Ontario

Estate planning in Ontario is governed primarily by the Succession Law Reform Act (“SLRA”). Its last major update was in the 1970s; however, further changes have received Royal Assent, with some key amendments expected to become law in January 2022. We will discuss those changes in detail in a future article. 

Your Relationships

Getting Married 

Congratulations! You got married – we wish you many happy years together.  

However, under Ontario’s current legislation, if you had a will before you got married, then your entire will has now been revoked unless you made it with marriage in mind. What does that mean for you? Your will may have had provisions protecting your children or donating to causes that you’re passionate about, but these are no longer valid. 

If you recently got married or will be married shortly, it is worthwhile to look at your will. Fortunately, this is one of the changes being made to the SLRA. As of January 2022, marriage will not revoke a will, aligning Ontario with many other provinces. 

In a common-law relationship

While you may have been with your partner longer than most married couples, Ontario’s legislation does not grant the same rights to common-law partners. Suppose you die intestate [definition: a person who died without having made a will]. Your common-law partner does not have a claim to your estate unless one of the following claims are filed: filing a dependency claim or filing a claim for unjust enrichment, both of which involve litigation (i.e. a lawsuit).

Of course, this is an unnecessary strain and expense. It is much more prudent and practical to have a will in place that recognizes your partner and provides for them in the event of your death. 

Separation 

As the SLRA currently stands, a separated spouse still stands to inherit a portion of the deceased spouse’s estate. That means that your home could automatically pass to your estranged spouse, instead of to your children or even a new common-law partner. 

However, as of January 2022, those portions of the SLRA will be amended. The legislation defines situations that deem a couple to be separated. In those instances, a surviving spouse would be treated the same as if the couple was divorced.

Your Children

Minor Children

One key reason to have estate planning in place is to protect your minor children. Therefore, selecting a guardian is an important decision and one that should be given careful thought.  

Generally speaking, a surviving parent would gain full custody of minor children. However, if there is no surviving parent, then other family members need to apply to the courts to gain custody. This could cause strife amongst your family if there are multiple claims and disagreements about who should be your children’s guardians. 

You will also want to consider who will have guardianship over your estate’s assets. Children cannot inherit an estate, so a person will need to be appointed to care for those assets until the children reach the age of majority. That may, or may not, be the same person who has physical custody of the children. 

Adult Children

Your children may be older, so their needs may be different. You will not have to think about a guardian; however, there are still decisions that you must make.  

While an adult is legally defined as 18-years old, is that the age that you want your child to inherit your estate? Many parents consider their children’s maturity level and put a graduated trust in place. This means that a portion of the estate is released at certain points. It is a wise move that protects your child from the poor decisions of their young adulthood. 

Are your children married? Would you want their spouses to inherit a portion of your estate, or should it pass on to any grandchildren? These are questions that must be asked and answered. 

Blended Families

The traditional two-parent family is becoming increasingly less common, and complex “stepfamilies” are on the rise. If this is true for you, this needs to be reflected in your estate planning. 

For example, you may have a child from a previous relationship. You get married but then pass away, and your will leaves your estate to your spouse (your child’s step-parent). The step-parent passes, but that estate is left to a new spouse or their children. Your child is not protected. 

Another example, you and your spouse both have children from previous relationships. You both have wills in place that leave everything to each other and then are divided amongst all the children. You pass, and your relationship between your children and spouse sours. The step-parent amends their will so that their children, and not yours, inherit their estate. Again, your children are not protected. 

While we hate to think about such horrible scenarios, it is a disservice to our children if we do not protect them after we are gone. 

Pets 

While you may consider your pet as part of your family, they are property in the eyes of estate legislation. Therefore, if you would like to plan for your pet’s care if you pass, it will have to be laid out specifically in your will. 

Be Kind – Plan Ahead

We know that you love your family and want to do what’s best for them. Therefore, give them the gift of estate planning so that their loss does not have to include dealing with lengthy legal matters. 

Our firm helps individuals match their estate planning to their lives. If you want to revisit your estate planning, please reach out to us here [link]. Our team would be more than happy to speak with you.