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Estate planning not only for protection after death

Regardless of how well planned our lives are, unanticipated events have a way of occurring at the worst times. For that reason, estate planners suggest three documents that should not be left out of any Ontario resident's estate planning. Rather than only having control over his or her assets after death, these papers will protect assets if the individual becomes incapacitated.

To avoid a situation of no control if a stroke or other event renders a person incapacitated -- physically or mentally -- a durable power of attorney document can be signed by which a trusted individual can be appointed to manage the person's finances while he or she is alive. The document can specify the types of financial decisions that person will have. It could include managing a business and household accounts, managing assets and retirement accounts, handling tax returns and managing government benefits.

The next document to sign is a medical power of attorney, which gives an appointed person the right to make legal healthcare decisions on behalf of a person who can no longer do it. The third document is called a living will, which specifies the individual's preferences related to resuscitation and continuing life by the use of machines. These decisions can cause family disputes if no directives are in place and it is left up to loved ones rather than the documented wishes of the person who might be in a vegetative state.

Estate planning entails much more than planning for the distribution and management of assets after death. With the guidance and support of an experienced Ontario estate-planning lawyer, financial and emotional battles between loved ones can be prevented. Furthermore, it can ensure the wishes of an incapacitated person are honoured.

Source: investopedia.com, "Three Documents You Shouldn't Do Without", George D. Lambert, June 30, 2017

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