What is an Estate Plan?
An Estate Plan is the process of planning in advance what you would like done with your property, your finances, and your health should you become incapacitated or in the event of your death. In Alberta, there are three documents that commonly make up an Estate Plan. The document you are probably the most familiar with is a Will. But depending on your needs and desires, you may also want to include a Power of Attorney and a Personal Directive. In this article, we will briefly describe each of the documents that are important parts of estate planning.
A will is a legal document that sets out how you would like your property divided after you die. It also allows you to name your personal representative (commonly known as an executor or administrator) who will represent your estate and carry out your wishes after your death. Another essential purpose of a will is to name a guardian for your children who may be minors at the time of your death.
There are different types of wills, but one thing they have in common is that they must be a written document. A formal will is usually prepared with the help of a Lawyer. It is typed, you sign it in front of 2 witnesses, who then sign the document in your presence. By contrast, a holograph will is less formal, its prepared entirely in your own handwriting and signed by you. You don’t need a witness and there may not be any typing in a holographic will.
Having an appropriately prepared will lets you decide where your property will go after your death. It also decreases the stress on family and loved ones who will be grieving your passing. If you die without a will, the Alberta Wills and Succession Act sets out how an estate is to be distributed and who will inherit.
ENDURING POWER OF ATTORNEY
Another essential part of a complete estate plan is an Enduring Power of Attorney. This legal document allows you to appoint someone to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf. The person you appoint is called an Attorney. In this situation, Attorney has a different meaning than when used to describe a lawyer. You write your Enduring Power of Attorney at a time when you are able to make your own decisions. You can decide to have your attorney start making decisions for you immediately, or you can choose a springing power of attorney, it springs into effect only if you become incapacitated. If you get better, you can then take back the power to make your own decisions. A power of attorney must be in writing, it must be be dated, signed in front of a witness, and signed by the witness.
A Personal Directive is similar to an enduring power of attorney, except the person you assign is responsible for making health and end of life care decisions. In this case, the person you choose is called your agent. You write a personal directive while you can still make your own decisions. Your agent does not step in until you need the help. If you get better, you again take back the power to make your own decisions. Personal directives are also written, dated, and signed in the presence of a witness. Learn more about personal directives here.
This article serves as a brief summary of Estate Planning documents and is not intended to replace professional legal advice. To contact our office to speak with a lawyer about your Estate Plan: Phone: 587-356-0356 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org