Several years ago, Harold was involved in a single-vehicle accident. He suffered brain damage that ultimately led to his death one year later. After he died, his house was sold and the proceeds were split between his two children, his boat was given to his best friend and fishing partner, and the $20,000 in his savings account was donated to B.C. Children’s Hospital – just as he had wished.
By failing to create a will, you do yourself and your loved ones a disservice. First, your hard-earned assets and possessions will be distributed in accordance with statutory law rather than your personal wishes.
Second, dying without a will places an enormous and unnecessary burden on your family. Not only does it create additional and more costly legal steps for your loved ones, it often becomes the source of immense conflict within the family.
By contrast, after Harold’s wife had passed away many years ago, he realized the need to proactively create a will. In the will, Harold designated his trusted cousin as his executor, who was then responsible for carrying out the wishes that Harold had indicated in his will. As such, not only were Harold’s assets seamlessly distributed in a timely fashion according to his wishes, there was also no cause for conflict between his loved ones, as the will made Harold’s intentions clear.
While Harold’s will was certainly a valuable planning tool, given the events leading up to Harold’s death, it was equally important that Harold proactively made use of two other planning tools: an enduring power of attorney, and a representation agreement. Because of the trauma to Harold’s brain, he lacked the capacity to make decisions in his own best interest during the final year of his life.
An enduring power of attorney is a document that allows you to appoint a person of your choice to handle your financial and legal affairs in the event you can no longer handle them yourself. A representation agreement is a similar tool that relates instead to personal and health care matters.
As you can see, proactive planning is essential for everyone.
Brian Loughlin is a partner with RDM Lawyers LLP. He practices in the areas of wills and estate planning, and business law. Comments regarding this article can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org