11 Apr Make-a-Will Week 2017
April 9th to 15th, 2017, is Make a Will Week in British Columbia.
We are surprised at the number of clients we meet who do not have a Will or incapacity planning documents such as powers of attorney (“POA”) or representation agreements (“RA”) in place. There are many reasons why one may choose not to consider a will or incapacity planning documents such as the cost, the perception that only wealthy people need wills, a belief that young people don’t need wills or a fear of talking about death. However, many fail to consider the consequences associated with not having these documents in place.
A Will is a document that provides who will administer your estate upon your death, who will be entitled to your assets and who will be the guardian of your minor children, if you have any. If you pass intestate, or without having a valid Will in place, the Wills, Estates and Succession Act, SBC 2009 c. 13 (“WESA”) governs how your assets will be distributed. You have no control over who will administer your estate, who will receive your assets or who will be the guardian of your minor children, if you have any (unless you have other documentation in place which provides for who the guardian will be). In addition, if any of your assets require probate (assets valued at more than $25,000 usually require probate), an interested person must make a court application for a Grant of Administration before they are able to deal with your assets.
A POA is a legal document that allows you to appoint another person to act on your behalf to make decisions with respect to your financial and legal matters. An attorney may pay your bills, sell your property, invest your assets and do just about anything you could do if you had capacity, subject to the terms of the POA document. A POA can apply to all of your financial matters or if may be limited to a specific purpose (i.e. selling your property when you are out of town at the time of closing).
A RA, often referred to as a living will, is a legal document that allows you to appoint another person to make decisions regarding your health care in the event that you are incapable of making such decisions on your own. For instance, your representative may give or refuse consent to health care for you or decide where you will live and with whom, including whether you should be moved to a care facility.
Many feel they do not require a POA or RA because they are young and capable of making such decisions themselves. Many also do not wish to incur the expense associated with putting these documents in place. However, the implications of not having such documents in place can be significant. For instance, if you are involved in a serious accident causing you to lose the ability to make decisions yourself, a close friend or family member would be required to commence a court application, known as a committeeship application, under the Patients Property Act, RSBC 1996 c. 349. Such an application is costly and it can take months before a friend or family member is appointed as your committee.
If you would like to discuss the foregoing further or if you wish to obtain general information regarding your estate or incapacity planning, please contact our estate lawyers today for a free initial consultation. Sitka Law Group is conveniently located on Shelbourne Street near the intersection of the borders of Victoria, Oak Bay and Saanich.