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Wills & Powers of Attorney – some things NOT to do

Note: The contents on this website are intended to be general information only and not legal advice. For further information, please contact our office.

Making decisions about what would happen if you couldn’t exercise your own decisions is not an easy topic. Most people choose to avoid it. In our experience, there are some common themes. This post shares some of those themes as in what you should NOT do with respect to your appointments in your wills and powers of attorney.

1. Procrastinate: It is not uncommon that we receive calls from individuals wondering if their family members left a will. Sometimes, it is the difficulty of accessing assets in the event of the incapacity of a loved one simply because they never got around to signing a power of attorney. Another common one is where an Attorney or Estate Trustee finds him or herself in the middle of a nasty dispute between those who think they should be receiving one asset or the other. It is not wise to leave those you love wondering what your intentions were just because it is a difficult topic that you would rather ignore. Put pen to paper and save your loved ones a headache.

2. Appointing your decision makers based on emotions: While it is nice to wish that your three children will put their issues aside and collaborate to act as the executors and settle the estate, it is exactly what that is, a wish. Chances are that if they couldn’t get along while you were alive, it is not a good idea to put all of them in a difficult predicament. This applies to appointments for your will as well as in your power of attorney documents. Instead, think through your options in advance and don’t overestimate the ability of your family to just figure it all out. Perhaps it’s a neutral party that will handle the matters so that relationships are not complicated any further than they may already be. Decision making for an attorney can be a lot of work and it is best to have someone who has the ability to handle many things that may be headed their way.

3. Thinking that somehow, those appointed will take away your ability to decide: The decisions about your personal autonomy can only be exercised in the event that you lose your mental capacity. In other words, if you can decide, then you will. This appointment is made in a power of attorney for personal care and involves decisions about your health care, nutrition, treatments, shelter etc. The substitute decision maker (also known as the attorney) is there simply as a backup. Yes, it’s better to have a backup than not to have one!

4. Appointing but not sharing: So, you’ve signed up the documents and appointed your attorneys (not lawyers, but rather, family members who act as your agents) but you forgot to share your thoughts with them! Does your family know what your end-of-life wishes may be? Do they know where you’d like to live? Are they aware of your preferences with respect to food, clothing, shelter etc.? Specific guidance and discussions go a long way. You don’t want to leave your family full of guilt.

5. Not updating documents as life changes: Giving yourself a marker of a few years or when certain things change in your life (relationships, births, death, separation, divorce) are reasons to review and possibly update your documents. This could be either of the power of attorney documents or the will.

If you have any questions and want to take care of this important task, give us a call at 519 224 3082 or email us at info@vrslaw.ca