A will is the ideal way an individual can ensure that the people, charities and organizations most important to them receive the benefit of their estate.
However, there are also legal arrangements to consider when a loved one has not passed but they are no longer capable to deal with their affairs.
For these families, there many different types of arrangements that can be made, according to local lawyer Duncan Magnus, who has noted a rise in the particular area of law he specializes in.
“I deal with the nightmare stories,” he noted.
Magnus works cases with families after they’ve been faced with a circumstance where they require legal authority but no prior arrangements were made.
To avoid the nightmare, as he calls it, there are two common legal arrangements to consider: power of attorney and representation agreement. Individuals should seek advice from a professional about their specific circumstance.
“It’s really important to plan in advance because it’s essentially a lot harder to fix things when they’re broken,” Magnus said.
A power of attorney can be used if an individual is incapable or capable, the lawyer explained, but it is specific to the estate, a property, and does not deal with a person.
A representation agreement allows an individual to manage an adult’s personal care, financial affairs and health care.
“[These arrangements] can be misused that’s why communication is important,” Magnus said.
The lawyer has noted a growing need for this area of law primarily attributing the demand to people living longer and the challenges that come with today’s dynamic family.
“There’s not enough care in planning for adults in this area,” Magnus said.
“There’s clearly been a change in how families work. We don’t have a single nuclear family. If it’s the norm, its only by a slim margin.”
He reiterated advice for people to seek professional guidance.
“It may be multiple conversations with both your family and you professional advisors,” he added, noting it may include ones accountant and insurance advisors.
“It’s part of your full planning process,” he said.
Additionally, having ones affairs in order can potentially provide a tax break.
“It helps you to deal with your taxes if you have a good will… there’s a lot of planning that can be done to minimize the tax burden and to help build your legacy,” Magnus said.
It’s Make-A-Will Week in British Columbia, a campaign to encourage the public to make a will or bring an existing will up-to-date. For additional resources visit www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/life-events/death/wills-estates/make-a-will-week.
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