Planning for the Future
All of us get bogged down with our everyday tasks, but have you taken some time out of your busy schedule to plan for your future? Most of us do not like to think about the “what ifs” in life. What if you are involved in a serious accident? What if you are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness? How will decisions regarding your health and finances be handled if you are unable to make those decisions yourself? What will happen to your estate if you pass unexpectedly? For these reasons it is important to consider estate planning options. The most common documents that can help you achieve your wishes are a) Power of Attorney; b) Representation Agreement; and c) Last Will and Testament. As lawyers, we regularly hear clients refer to these documents interchangeably, and that is a serious mistake. Granting a Power of Attorney to someone will not allow that person to make health care decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. A Power of Attorney is the document whereby you appoint a person called the “Attorney” to act on your behalf with respect to financial and legal matters. For someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, you would require a Representation Agreement. Depending on whether the Representation Agreement is prepared as a Section 7 Form or Section 9 Form (different powers) your Representative can make decisions ranging from the “minor” (such as a teeth cleaning) to the “major” (such as chemotherapy) and even end of life decisions. If a doctor determines you are no longer capable of making decisions concerning your finances or health care, and you do not have a Power of Attorney or Representation Agreement, your loved ones could be faced with making an application to the Court to name them as your committee or guardian. This will cost your estate several thousand dollars. Finally, a Will is imperative if you want your estate to be divided according to your personal wishes after you pass. Contact your Wills and Estates lawyer to learn more about these important life planning documents.