It is always good practice to check-in with your estate plan following significant changes in life. Events like a birth in the family, a marriage, divorce, or purchasing a home or car all leave room for questions about how things will work a little differently moving forward. Creating an estate plan helps provide structure in three ways. First, a Personal Directive communicates your wishes surrounding health care and treatment to loved ones should you be unable to. Second, an Enduring Power of Attorney allows another person to act on your behalf if you are unable to. Third, a Will provides a clear set of instructions for how you would like your property settled when you pass away. Below, you can find five examples of common life events that should have you thinking (at least a little) about organising your estate:
- Purchasing a New Car or Home
The purchase of any home is likely the single largest transaction of your life. The legal mechanisms that move property from one owner to another are complex, and the transaction itself is often several hundred thousand dollars. Choosing not to protect that investment with a Will seems almost negligent given that Wills are commonly drawn up for a once-off flat fee, and are less than what you likely pay each year in home insurance. DBH Law has a flat rate for simple wills starting at $450.00; and if you are part of a couple we are happy to prepare both Wills for $750.00.
- Having a Child
With a valid Will, you as a parent have the ability to provide clear direction for your child’s care, education, and guardianship in the event you pass away or are suddenly unable to provide care yourself. Without a Will, the provincial government makes these decisions for you through the Wills and Succession Act and the Public Guardian. Whether you have a significant extended family or are a single parent with a few close friends, having a Will drawn-up allows you to ensure that your child is well cared for if life slips sideways.
- Entering a (Serious) Relationship
The law in Alberta has reflected a modern understanding of marriage for several years now, and provides for a variety of family shapes and sizes. Marriage, common law, and Adult Interdependent Partners (“AIPs”) are just a few. As an example: AIPs have several rights in the event of their partner’s death. However, these rights were designed to be a security net for everyone, and it may make more sense to tailor your plan to your individual family. Consider a scenario in which only one AIP is listed on the certificate of title for the family home. If that named partner passes away intestate (without a Will), then under the Wills and Succession Act the unnamed partner is only entitled to possession of the family home for 90 days following the named partner’s death. After that, the home can be sold. Even a simple will can adjust this, allowing you and your family to decide how and when property changes hands.
- Caring for a Parent or Loved One
Having a Will allows the testator (you) to leave specific bequests (or gifts) to friends and family members of your choice. Aside from items with sentimental value, specific bequests are an excellent way to ensure that anyone you are caring for in your life is not left by the wayside by the Public Guardian. For example: a family friend, aging parent, sibling, or particular child.
- Your own Accidental Impairment or Death
Last but not least, it is important to look after yourself as well. Wills handle property, but are only a part of a well-planned estate. Enduring Powers of Attorney (“EPAs”) and Personal Directives (“PDs”) are the legal documents that typically complete an estate planning package. They are what give the power of law to your decisions on medical treatment you would (or would not) like if you are unable to respond, and provide friends and family with guidance that can settle arguments on how you are cared for, before they start. Like Wills, simple estate planning packages that include both an EPA and a PD are also often a flat fee. DBH Law offers estate planning packages for individuals starting at $700.00, and couples starting at $1 250.00.
If you are ready to get organised, don’t hesitate to give DBH Law a call. Our lawyers have over 50 years of experience in estate planning, and look forward to helping you arrange your affairs.