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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 by any Ontario resident's estate planning. Rather than only having control over his or her assets after death, these documents will protect assets if the individual becomes incapacitated during his or her lifetime and is not longer able to manage his or her own affairs.

To avoid a situation of no control over one's assets, if a stroke or other event renders a person incapacitated -- physically or mentally -- a continious power of attorney should be executed, by which a trusted individual (attorney for property) 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 be authorized to make. It could include managing a business and household accounts, managing assets and retirement accounts, handling tax returns and managing government benefits.

The power of attorney can provide broad authorization to deal with the person's assets but can also be very restrictive and very specific about what decisions can be made and how.

The next document that everybody needs to have is a power of attorney for personal care (the "medical  power of attorney), which gives an appointed person the right to make legal healthcare decisions on behalf of another person, who can no longer do it.

The third document is called a living will or health care directive. This document specifies the individual's preferences related to resuscitation and continuing life by life support devices. These decisions can cause family disputes and generally a lot of grief, if no directives are provided and the decision 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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