End of Life Planning
A new year is a great time to set an intention to “get your ducks in a row”. Being prepared makes a huge difference; be kind to those you leave behind. The effort you put in now can save others incalculable time, money, heartache, and disagreements later.
In broad strokes, there are two categories that need your attention – your health care and body; and your earthly possessions and responsibilities. There are two timelines that need your consideration; preparing for your potential failing health and preparing for your inevitable death.
While You Are Alive – Your Health Care: As long as you are able to communicate, you can consent to or refuse medical treatment, and let others know what kind of health and personal care you want. Advance Care Planning is about communicating those wishes now so that if a time comes when you are unable to speak for yourself, your values can guide health decisions that need to be made. A Representation Agreement appoints someone you trust to speak on your behalf. Advance Care Directives give a document authority to speak for you regarding specific situations. Medical Order for Scope of Treatment (MOST) and/or No Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNR) forms are completed with the help of your health practitioner to provide direction for your care in case of a medical emergency.
While You Are Alive – Your Finances: If you are no longer able to take care of your own financial and legal affairs, an Enduring Power of Attorney document, completed while you were competent, gives someone you trust the authority to represent you and make decisions on your behalf, while you are still alive.
To ease the eventual administration of your estate, protect assets, reduce your overall tax burden, help ensure your estate will be distributed the way you wish, and make funds available to your executor in a timely fashion, there are financial preparations and decisions you can make now. A tax accountant can help with this.
After Your Death – Your Estate: A Will is a legal document that leaves instructions, which the executor named in your Will is to carry out, about what you want done with your estate and obligations after you die. If you have minor children, it outlines who you have appointed to be their guardian.
After Your Death – Your Body: The executor named in your Will is also responsible for your body. Record the information necessary to register your death. Decide, have conversations and write down how you’d like your body cared for, who you’d like involved in this care, how you’d like it returned to the earth and commemorated, and your wishes for a service.
I have written an “End of Life Planning Workbook” with detailed step-by-step information, available on the way2go.ca website in the ‘Legal Information and End-of-Life Planning’ section under the ‘Resources’ tab. If you’d like a printed binder, contact us through the website. People’s Law School and Nidus are helpful resources. Quadra’s Notary Public, Sally Houghton, is an experienced professional available to guide and help you.
End of Life planning is a process that takes courage, grit and perseverance. It involves reflecting on your values and wishes, having conversations with the people impacted, obtaining information and often professional help, and recording your wishes in an effective way. It takes time and sometimes money, but can save considerably more of both.