Why make a Living Will?
So what exactly is a living will? Unlike a final will where you state who you want to inherit your property after you pass away, in a living will, you outline your preferences about future healthcare treatments, in case you’re ever unable to express your wishes to doctors and loved ones. For example, if you end up in a coma, unconscious or unable to verbally articulate your thoughts.
A living will also be referred to as “medical directives,” “health care proxies,” or “advance health care directives.” Some jurisdictions have a standardized form, while other places allow you to draft your own document so long as you have it witnessed and signed.
Once you make a living will, at a time when you are able to mentally and physically do so, the person making a decision on your behalf, if something were to happen to you, will be bound to comply with any wishes you expressed while you were still capable. It is a binding document.
These documents have become popular as more and more people realize the importance of making critical decisions about their medical and end-of-life care ahead of time. Many legal battles have taken place which negatively affect family members where they try to keep a specific member alive using medical treatments, while others prefer to end the person’s life if no recourse is expected in improving their health to minimize suffering. Having a living will help prevent much of this by allowing each person to document their own wishes and preferences, giving more certainty, for other family members or loved ones to follow whether they agree with it or not.
Some of the specific benefits of a living will include:
Authorize treatments. There are many procedures that require authorization from the patient. You can make these authorizations in advance in case you are incapacitated. You can ensure that you will get the treatment you need and want.
Refusing specific treatments: As the inverse of the previous point, there are a number of reasons why people may not want certain medical treatments. It could be a “do not resuscitate” order, or you may not want a feeding tube. Some treatments may be against your moral or religious beliefs. A living will give you control over the treatments that you will accept and those you will not.
Know your outcomes: You never know when an illness or disease might strike or you may be in an accident that puts you into a situation where you cannot make your health care decisions. Having a living will in place ensures you that incapacitation will not make outcomes a guessing game. You know what to expect because you have specified it.
Eliminate financial problems for your family: Medical treatments, especially long term care, can become very expensive. You can make decisions in advance that will eliminate or minimize the cost of care for you.
Make the decisions easy for your family: Similar to the previous point, since you have specified what you want, it will be easier for your family to accede to your wishes. You have limited their options so decisions won’t be as difficult as they might have been.
Prevent arguments among family members: Your family cares about you, but different family members may have different opinions about the best treatment for you. By creating a living will, you can eliminate any disagreements.
Ensure doctors follow your wishes: With an advance directive, your doctors will do what you wanted them to do. They won’t do what they simply feel is best for you. You are in control and not your doctor.
The Time Secured app makes creating a living will easy, there are editable templates that can be used and downloaded for signature. These can then be sent to your family members for safekeeping or through the passing vault (if you don’t want them to see it until there is a need to).
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What is a Will Executor?
When someone close to you passes away, or even you, it can be a trying experience for the family and loved ones of those that pass away. In addition to dealing with mourning and grief, there are a number of practical matters that need attention, and right away, including funeral arrangements, obtaining death certificates, reading the will, probate, distributing assets, and so forth.
Hiring an estate executor (also known as the personal representative, administrator, estate trustee, or liquidator) can make the difference between an easy process to an extremely stressful one.
The executor’s responsibility is to manage and wind up the deceased person’s estate, resolve any debts, distribute assets to heirs, and file legal paperwork. Some of the tasks might include the following:
- Arrange Funeral — Request burial or cremation, organize the memorial, order death certificates, etc.
- Take Inventory — Find and organize all estate assets and debts
- Become Executor — Get appointed by the court (if going through probate)
- Send Notifications — Notify friends and family, social insurance, banks, credit cards, etc.
- Manage Estate — Maintain and care for assets; plan asset disposition
- Resolve Debts — Pay off debts in full, or arrange for debt forgiveness
- File Taxes — Submit relevant tax returns: decedent income, estate income, etc.
- Make Distributions — Distribute net assets to heirs
- Wrap It Up — Finalize the estate settlement, including probate final accounting (if applicable)
Some tasks can be performed by anyone, such as notifying next of kin, while others have strict legal requirements. For example, some jurisdictions require that an estate administrator resides in the deceased same jurisdiction which can be difficult. Fees and costs related to getting an Executor, especially if you have limited assets, can be significant but in many cases tax exempt.
The role of an executor can be complicated and involve tax, legal, and other financial decisions. It may also be contentious depending on family dynamics. While most people choose an executor when they draft their first Will, life events typically trigger a re-evaluation of who should take on that responsibility for you.
Be sure you are careful with whom you appoint, that they are ready for the job, and that you use Time Secured to give them all the necessary and updated information for them to properly implement your final wishes.
Should I Write a Will?
Why have a will? Even if you don’t have much to leave behind when it comes to material things, having a will is one of the most important things you can do.
You probably had a few people talk to you about it (or maybe not) – had a few family friends bring it up every time you meet, it can be an annoyance, and frankly you are likely avoid talking to them for that purpose. Realising how important it is, even later in my life, has made all the difference.
Most people will say I don’t have much to leave in terms of money, or things, but it can be as simple as saying who the guardians are going to be of your kids, even if there is an understanding before you pass away. Emotions will run high and people will start to overstep if you don’t make sure things are all clear.
If you don’t have kids or much else to be taken care of once you leave, a will is good to prepare simply to say you don’t have anything to give away – as simple as that! It has it in black and white, there is no confusion, and everyone is clear on what you do (or don’t) have; and what you want to do with it.
Lots of free will preparation websites and templates you can find online depending on the jurisdiction you live in. Also worth making a health decision consent form (and probably even more important to you since you’ll be alive or a version thereof) – where you give authority to people to make treatment decisions for you. Don’t panic you can stipulate when it comes into force, so no one is going to make medical decisions for you arbitrarily. This is another big one and is almost as important as the final will.
Making a will is a favour you do for those you leave behind, giving them clarity, keeping their conscious clear and avoiding unnecessary bad blood when they are already reeling from a difficult time. If you haven’t lost anybody close to you it’s hard to prioritise this as a top concern. But take it from someone whose experienced a close death early on, it’s really one of the main things I make sure I do knowing what I’ve gone through. Hopefully you don’t need it anytime soon, but it wouldn’t hurt to have it ready when the time comes, which can be a sudden shock.
Write your own will in 5 easy steps
Can’t afford a will? The truth is you can’t afford not to have a will. Writing a will is the only way to retain control of your assets and nominate the beneficiaries upon your passing. It is nowhere near as difficult as many would have you believe. So, where do you start? How do you protect your assets upon your death?
It is fair to say that estate planning BC has changed over the last couple of years with the introduction of electronic wills and electronic storage. Where you have a relatively complex estate, you may require a degree of legal advice, while others may require little or no input from the legal profession. Whatever your situation, writing your own will is still relatively straightforward and something you should consider.
Estate planning issues
You must discuss estate planning issues with your advisers before attempting to write your own will. Even though there are several online wills BC, including the popular Staples will kit, you must be careful and ensure everything is in order. Online wills BC work well for those who have a reasonably simple estate. However, if your estate is a little more complicated, you should seek at least initial guidance.
Probate tax Canada
While there is no probate tax Canada, your estate will be charged a fee based upon the value of your assets. In British Columbia, the situation is as follows:-
- Estates valued at less than $25,000 will not attract any probate fees
- Estates valued between $25,000 and $50,000 will be charged a probate fee of six dollars for every $1000 worth of assets, or part thereof, between $25,000 and $50,000
- Estates valued in excess of $50,000 will be charged $14 per $1000 worth of assets by which the estate exceeds $50,000
- Those estates valued in excess of $50,000 will also attract an additional probate fee of $200
Any probate tax Canada due will be taken from your estate, reducing the amount available to distribute. If you decide to use a probate solicitor, you will probably be looking at additional fees of between 2% and 5% of the estate’s value plus VAT. Consequently, some people will take general legal advice and use this to write their own will.
The easiest way to write a will BC
The Staples will kit could be an interesting place to start if you have a moderately complex estate. As you will see with a quick Internet search, each Staples will kit offers a different degree of flexibility to suit your scenario. However, it is possible to write your own will without any third-party documentation.
Step One: Decide who will be your beneficiaries
Estate planning BC is critical, because without a will the courts will become involved, creating added expense and reducing the value of your estate. First, write a list of beneficiaries and what assets you would like to gift them on your death. If you decide to split your estate equally between numerous people, there is no need to specify individual assets.
Step Two: Appoint an executor
The appointment of an executor is an integral part of estate planning issues and something you should decide upon at a relatively early stage. Many people have friends and family as executors, while others choose those from a more formal profession, such as a solicitor. You will also need to appoint a backup executor in the event that your original choice is unable to fulfil their executor obligations.
Step Three: Create a formal document
It is essential that your will is marked as such and clearly revokes any previous wills in existence. Unless the document is titled explicitly as your will, it could be taken as advice with the courts potentially becoming involved. The online wills BC market is relatively large, with packages such as the Staples will kit proving very useful. In addition, many examples are available online to give you an idea of the format and specific wording.
Step Four: Specify miscellaneous provisions
While the distribution of assets is the central part of any will, there is also the opportunity to add specific miscellaneous provisions. This may include the appointment of a guardian for your children or someone to look after your pet. Unfortunately, many people retain these miscellaneous provisions in their minds but fail to add them to their will. Consequently, this is one of the estate planning issues which is often overlooked.
Step Five: Notarize and register your will
Under normal circumstances, your will would be signed off in the presence of a notary in British Columbia. This will involve two witnesses, at least 19 years of age, and the notary signing your document as a legal instruction. At this point, your will is live, although you will need to register the document with the British Columbia Vital Statistics Record Office.
Storing your will
There are numerous options when looking to store your will, one of many estate planning issues you will need to address. For example, you could keep a physical copy at home, with a friend or leave it with your local bank or solicitor. Recent changes to regulations now allow you to store (and write) your will in electronic format in the cloud. Wherever you decide to keep your will, make sure there are clear instructions about executing your instructions on your death!
Simplifying estate planning issues
In light of Covid, we saw several changes concerning estate planning issues, including the introduction of electronic wills and remote witnessing. This meant that two individuals (one of which would need to be a lawyer/notary public) could witness the document while being in electronic contact but without physically being in the same room. Many people expected these changes to be temporary, but they have been brought into BC law and are now part of estate planning BC.
Then there is the ability to store your will in electronic format, with several will cloud storage companies now emerging. This has injected a degree of competition into the estate planning BC market, which will eventually lead to a more competitive charging structure.
Are you ever too young to have a will?
When looking at estate planning BC, you must be over the age of 16 and of sound mind to make a will. Traditionally, those who die young without a will would typically see their assets distributed amongst immediate family. However, there is nothing stopping anyone over the age of 16 from writing their own will, in line with the relevant legal procedures, and allocating existing and future assets as they so wish.
However, this issue could be controversial if a young person was left a significant amount of money/assets as a beneficiary, for example, of their parent’s will. Even if the beneficiary was over the age of 16, some parents might decide to appoint a trustee to manage their inheritance. It will depend upon the individual situation, but it is possible to leave assets for a beneficiary under the short-term control of a third party.
Avoiding family feuds
While wills and inheritances are not the easiest of things to discuss across the dinner table, unfortunately, they can lead to long-lasting family feuds. Consequently, many people now look to write and register their wills away from family and friends, relying on executors. Some people have used family friends as their executors, but this can lead to issues with:-
Biased opinions on asset allocation
If an executor has a connection with one of the potential beneficiaries, or someone frozen out of your will, this could place them in a difficult situation. Even with the best intentions, it can be challenging to maintain an unbiased opinion in these situations. Is it fair to put a friend/acquaintance in such a position?
Negating gift instructions to an executor
The more detailed your will, the less chance it will be challenged in the courts. Leaving a gift in your will to an executor may raise some eyebrows in some situations. Where you influenced? Were you in a fit state of mind when preparing your will? Rightly or wrongly, these questions could form the basis for a legal appeal against your will.
Whether you seek the assistance of a friend, distanced from the scenario and not a beneficiary, or a close adviser will depend upon your situation.
Retain control of your estate!
Whether you are considering using something similar to the Staples will kit, writing your own will or taking advice from a solicitor, you need to retain control of your estate. If you don’t have a will, the courts will make the decisions; you will lose control of how your assets are distributed while potentially building up significant additional costs.
Failure to act today may see your loved ones stripped of their rightful inheritance tomorrow; those assets it took you years to build up. This is your chance to provide for them in your absence.