Your Will and Power of Attorney

When we’re young and healthy, the last thing we tend to think about is death. We spend our early years establishing a career, earning money, and having a family. But the one thing we can all agree on, whatever our assets and interests are, is that we want them protected and passed down properly if something unfortunate happens. No matter your age or life circumstances, you absolutely must draft up a will and keep it up to date as life changes.

A shocking fact: half of us don’t have a will or power of attorney. Dying without a will means that your provincial government decides how your assets will be divided.

If you don’t have one, here are some things to consider when writing your will:

  1. It’s never too early to start thinking about and communicating your wishes with your family.
  2. Who will look after your children?
  3. Who will receive your goods and possessions?
  4. How do you want your assets distributed?
  5. Do you want money given to children at a certain age (18, 25)?
  6. Who will be your power of attorney?

What is a power of attorney?

This is someone who acts on your behalf. This could be related to property, health decisions (if you’re unable to make your wishes known), monitor investments, or simply pay your bills. If you do not have a will, the law decides who can apply to be the estate administrator and how your estate will be divided. This means the distribution of your estate may not be what you want. In most instances, a preferential share goes to the spouse and then the balance is divided among the spouse and descendants.

A clear outline of your wishes, set out in a will, can help avoid family disputes.

In Ontario, there are three types of power of attorney:

  • A non-continuing power of attorney for property. This is used in situations for a specific length of time (for example, when you’re out of the country). You outline the specific tasks your attorney is allowed to do on your behalf and for how long.
  • Continuing power of attorney for property. This authorizes another person to act on your behalf in financial matters if you become mentally or physically incompetent. If you are unable to act on your own behalf, your power of attorney can: pay your bills, apply for benefits you may be entitled to, collect pension or income, and also ensure your assets are protected.
  • Power of attorney for personal care. This allows someone else to make health-care decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Just remember that these decisions are difficult, so it should be someone who is capable of handling an emotionally-charged situation.

A non-continuing power of attorney for property or power of attorney for personal care has no statutory right to be paid. Speak with your lawyer about including payment terms in your documents if you would like them to be paid for their services.
Do you need a will? Contact us today to get started.

DISCLAIMER: This handout is provided as an information service by Rasmussen Starr Ruddy LLP. It is distributed with the understanding that it does not constitute legal advice or establish a solicitor-client relationship by way of any information contained herein. The contents are intended for general information purposes only and under no circumstances can be relied upon for legal decision-making. Please consult with us and obtain a written opinion concerning the specifics of your particular situation.