Whenever I meet with clients to discuss estate planning matters, I make sure they are aware of three essential legal documents: a Last Will and Testament, an Enduring Power of Attorney, and a Health Care Directive. Each of these documents has a different purpose and everyone should think about them when thinking about estate planning.
A Last Will and Testament only becomes a legally usable document upon your death. It is an important document for allowing you a significant amount of control in what happens with your estate after you pass away. Having a properly drafted Last Will and Testament will give you comfort in knowing you have avoided additional grief for loved ones by making your wishes clear and by providing for loved ones in a practical and thoughtful way.
An Enduring Power of Attorney is a legally usable document only during your lifetime. It is an important document for allowing you to choose a trusted friend or family member to handle your estate in the event you are unable to. This document is especially important if you lose the ability to make sound decisions for yourself. Without an Enduring Power of Attorney, your loved ones may have to make a court application to appoint a legal guardian for you. Such court applications are often stressful and costly.
Neither a Last Will and Testament nor an Enduring Power of Attorney give the authority for a person to make medical decisions for you when you are not able to do so. A Health Care Directive allows you to choose a loved one to act as your medical proxy and make medical decisions on your behalf. You may also include a statement about your end of life wishes in a Health Care Directive, advising friends and family of whether you do or do not want to be kept alive artificially.
With proper planning and legal advice, you may save yourself and your loved ones a considerable amount of stress and uncertainty if the worst comes to pass. Three generations of my family have proudly assisted with estate planning for people in Saskatoon over the last half century and our clients have consistently reported to us how relieved and happy they feel after having made a Last Will and Testament, an Enduring Power of Attorney or a Health Care Directive.