I picked this simple topic for a group writing project by Canadian bloggers on Wills and Estate Planning because as a lay person, my understanding of this complicated topic can be boiled down into two sentences:
- It is extremely important to have your wills done, especially if you are going through a significant change in your life such as the birth of a child, a divorce or remarriage.
- Find a good lawyer and have him explain the intricacies of a will, power of attorney for personal care and continuing power of attorney for property to you.
Though will kits are an option, we decided to get a lawyer to prepare our wills. I asked around for references and found one through a friend. As our situation is quite simple, the lawyer quoted $300 for a standard package, which seems to be the norm in the Ottawa area.
A lawyer should explain to you the intricacies of a will (how your estate will be distributed, designate guardians for your children etc.), power of attorney for personal care (also called a “living will”, it specifies who takes personal and medical decisions should you become incapacitated. Remember the legal battles surrounding Terry Schiavo?), and continuing power of attorney for property (appointing someone to deal with your property on your behalf).
Most of the decisions surrounding these documents were easy for us — one spouse named the other as the beneficiary of the estate, guardian for the children etc. For the longest time, we got stuck on who should be the guardian for the children and who should be the executor of the estate should something happen to both of us. I suspect this will be a topic for contention for most couples.
Once you get your wills done, don’t forget to let your executor know where the original is located.
[As I mentioned earlier, this post is part of writing project on “Wills and Estate Planning” by a group of Canadian bloggers. You may also want to check out The benefits of a professional executor (not to be confused with an executioner) by Where Does All My Money Go?, Top five myths about wills by Thicken My Wallet, Why you need a will and the basics of estate planning by Million Dollar Journey, Six common mistakes on a will by the Financial Blogger and My last will and testament by Four Pillars]