Posts Tagged ‘Wills’

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How to Protect Your Family As You Age

Age isn’t quite what it used to be. 

60 is the new 50, 80 is the new 70. There’s been a considerable amount of talk in the media about “miracle” technological advances that cure all types of ailments and promise to keep us alive well into the triple digits. 

There’s no doubt that some of these advances are real and are actually extending and improving our lives, but there’s one thing they’ll never be able to change: accidents still happen, especially as we age.

According to a report by the Canadian Medical Association, nearly three-quarters of Canadians over 65 have at least one chronic health condition, and unexpected accidents like falls remain a leading cause of hospitalizations for people over 60.

Despite these staggering statistics, many people remain unprepared to deal with what could happen to them and their families if they suddenly become incapacitated by an accident or illness, or when they die. 

Recent polls show that the majority of Canadian adults lack basic estate documents such as wills, representation agreements, or powers of attorney. And, many of those who have them need to update their documents for them to remain legally binding. 

As you get older, not thinking about the very real possibility that something could happen to you means you are putting an unfair burden on your family and leaving them exposed to a number of headaches and responsibilities. 

So what can you do to remedy that? Here are five things you can do right now to protect your family as you age.

1. Write (or update) a Will

Wills are extremely important documents. If you don’t have one (or if things have changed since you wrote it or you’re not sure what’s in it or where it is) you should definitely consider getting one (or a new one) as soon as possible.

Wills allow you to express how you want your estate to be divided and help keep an inventory of what you own. This provides a HUGE help for your family and takes the burden of many decisions off of their shoulders.

Perhaps more importantly, wills allow you to select someone you trust to be in charge of executing your wishes. This helps guarantee that your wishes are actually carried out after you die, and helps organize the division of your stuff once you are gone.

2. Write a Power of Attorney Document

Power of attorney documents allow you to authorize someone else to sign financial or legal documents and act on your behalf. This can also be used to buy and sell assets, and sign tax returns if you are unavailable or incapacitated. 

There are two types of power of attorney. While a specific power of attorney is limited to a single transaction, an enduring general power of attorney allows you to choose someone who will take control of all your legal and financial matters if something were to happen to you.

In addition to this, it is a smart thing to do if you are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia, or degenerative diseases and believe that you may need help managing your daily finances now or in the future.

One small note, a power of attorney doesn’t apply to health care decisions (you’ll need a Representation Agreement for that).

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3. Get a Representation Agreement

Representation Agreements are legal documents that allow a person (or a group of people) to make personal care and health decisions on your behalf.

This allows someone you trust to manage your affairs if you are incapacitated or unable to make your own decisions due to illness, injury, or disability. It also allows you to dictate your specific wishes regarding your physical, emotional and personal needs, including:

  • Choosing who will advocate for you
  • Giving or withholding consent for medical treatments
  • Where you will live (and with whom)
  • Whether to admit or discharge you from a care facility
  • Planning of support and services
  • Who has visitation rights
  • Care staff management
  • Spiritual matters
  • Whether you want to refuse CPR or have a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)
  • End of life decision making
  • Diet and grooming
  • Care of pets
  • Participation in activities and exercise

Without a Representation Agreement, a doctor or health care provider will choose your Temporary Substitute Decision Maker (TSDM) if you can’t make your own decisions.

This person is selected based on the Health Care Consent Act. Your spouse would be the first choice, followed by one of your children.

Your TSDM is required by law to make decisions based on your best interests. However, this person may not necessarily be the person you want, or may not know what type of care or treatment you would prefer.

A Representation Agreement allows you to choose in advance who you want to represent you. Most people choose a spouse, partner, friend or family member in their representation agreement. 

The representative’s main responsibility is to assist a person to make a decision for themselves. This means that before making any decision, the representative is legally obligated to try to determine your current wishes.

If you are completely incapacitated and your current wishes cannot be determined, then your representative will follow what has been outlined in your Representation Agreement.

As a last resort, the representative will make a decision based on what they think is in your best interest while consistent with your values.

4. Get rid of some of your stuff!

Most people tend to accumulate lots of things throughout their lives. While some of these things may hold sentimental value, they also tend to pile up in basements, attics, and closets and are a hassle to deal with as we get older (not to mention a nightmare for those left to do it after you pass).

Downsizing isn’t as easy as “just getting rid of some stuff”. Letting go of your things can be difficult, but it can also be a very liberating process and one that your family (and future you!) will definitely appreciate.

Going over your things with your family members (especially your kids) is a great way to get the ball rolling on downsizing.

5. Get some legal help!

According to the BC Wills, Estates and Succession Act and the BC Wills Variation Act, which legislate estate succession in British Columbia, there are a number of reasons why your estate documents may be deemed invalid by a court.

For example, there could be undo interference (which is when someone influences the writing of another person’s will); formal invalidity (when proper processes aren’t followed); or a lack of testamentary capacity (when someone doesn’t have the mental capacity to legally sign a will).

Regardless of the reason, if a judge declares that a will is invalid, it’s essentially thrown away.

Draftinging or reviewing your documents with a BC Notary can help to ensure your wishes are followed and documents stand up to scrutiny.

The bottom line: if you haven’t created or reviewed your legal documents lately, now is the perfect time!

About David Watts

David Watts is a BC Notary who has practiced in Downtown Vancouver since 2006.  David’s office specializes in working with people to create their Wills, Power of Attorney and Representation Agreements; as well as performing Real Estate Transfers for properties all around British Columbia.  David has trained to receive the Certified Professional Consultant on Aging (CPCA) designation. David has been long-serving Director of the Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia and is currently 2nd Vice President.

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9 Critical Reasons You Shouldn't DIY A Will

9 Critical Reasons You Shouldn’t DIY a Will

People who know me know I’m not a DIY fan.

It’s empowering to do something yourself. There is a satisfying sense of accomplishment that comes with the successful completion of a project. I also love cutting costs by doing things on my own, and often learn new skills in the process.

But even an avid DIY fan like me knows that there are some things that I simply can’t do by myself.  I also know the value of working with a professional.

Some of them are obvious. Like open-heart surgery or building an aircraft.

But others aren’t so straightforward, like legal documents. Even as an experienced BC Notary, I know there are certain legal documents that I can’t prepare on my own. I accept that and defer to other experts when I need these documents.

This is why I’m concerned about a growing trend: people wanting to DIY their Wills (often using the internet as their only source of information).

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the appeal: cutting costs, avoiding the hassle of having to see a professional, the satisfaction of learning a new skill. These reasons are valid, but trust me when I say, it’s just not worth it.

In the best of cases, DIY Wills are often ineffective, and seriously hinder the chances that your wishes are followed.

In the worst of cases, they are deemed invalid by the courts and leave your loved ones scrambling to figure out what to do with your estate.

The final decision to DYI your Will is yours to make, but at least you won’t be able to say that I didn’t warn you…

1. It May Affect the Validity of Your Will

In B.C. and in many other jurisdictions across Canada and the United States, certain formal elements must be in place in order for a will to be valid. If the procedures aren’t followed correctly, then the whole will is deemed invalid.

There are legalities to consider, and you’ll need to make some difficult decisions about the future of your estate. It’s advisable to have an expert that can help you understand the legal consequences of your decisions.

2. You May Choose the Wrong Executors or Guardians

Executors play a central role in the administration of a will. Without good executors, the final division of your estate can cause huge headaches to everyone involved. Guardians take care of our Children should we not be there.  Should they be the same person? Do you know why it’s good for them to be different people? Have you thought about checks and balances?

DIY-ing your Will may lead you to make bad or inappropriate choices about executors and guardians.

3. How Much Do You Know About Taxes Anyway?

Many people forget that taxation plays a central role in estate planning and wills drafting. When a BC Notary drafts a will, they can tell you what type of taxes a person will have to pay in estate and transfer taxes, giving you the information to adequately divide your estate.

Without understanding how taxes work and what role they plan in estate transfers, there’s a chance you may be burdening your loved ones with heavy taxes.

4. When It Comes to Wills, One Size Does Not Fit All

In general, DIY legal service providers create one will template, but not everybody’s situation is the same. BC Notaries create a will to meet your estate needs, personalizing your will so that it is both valid and effective.

DIY Wills Are Can Be More Expensive Than You Expect

5. Assets May Not Be Net Assets (Mortgages and Taxes)

Whenever you write a Will with the assistance of a legal professional, you are walked through a series of questions that help you account for the totality of your estate.

Only once your estate is properly assessed, will a Will be drafted to divide your estate as you see fit. DIY-ing you Will may cause your assets to be divided differently then you wished because they are not properly accounted for.

6. Mistakes Can Cost a Fortune (Literally)

The whole point of making a Will in the first place is to decide what you want to do with your estate. Whether it’s big or small, your estate comprises of the fortune that you were able to build over your lifetime.

DIY legal service sites can make it sounds like creating a Will is simple. But it isn’t. And mistakes cost money. In fact, ineffective wills can end up costing your family thousands of dollars in legal fees down the road. That can mean that your fortune — big or small — can end up going to covering those fees rather than to your loved ones.

7. Your Intentions May Not Be as Clearly Stated as You Think

No matter how much research you do, you probably don’t speak legalize, (which is how I call the oh-so-complicated language of the law). So even though you (and other normal humans) think that your Will is clear, without proper training, there’s a good chance that your wishes may not be clear for the law.

If this happens a court case is required to determine the correct meaning of the Will, costing your family their precious money and time.

8. You Don’t Get to Talk Through Your Estate Plan

One of the big benefits of working with a BC Notary is that you get to discuss your estate plan, ask questions, and get advice about the best way to structure things.  

Our experience makes the process much easier to work through.  Common feedback we hear is that “that was much easier than I expected”.  We also hear that “I feel like a heavy load has been lifted from me”.

Let us do the heavy lifting. You’ll feel better having these important details sorted out.

9. Learn about Powers of Attorney or Representation Agreements

BC Notaries can help with Wills, but we also prepare and advise on Powers of Attorney and Representation Agreements.  

For a complete estate plan and to provide full protection; it’s important to discuss if a Power of Attorney and/or Representation Agreement is something you can consider and learn about when working with a professional as opposed to a DIY wills kit.

Create A Valid Will

At David Watts, Notary Public, we can help you write your Will.

We have more than a decade of experience helping people with their estate planning and can give you the advice you need to write a valid and effective Will.

Get in touch and we’ll make sure your Will reflects your wishes. 

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When Do You Need to Hire a Notary?​​​​​​​

A notary public (also known as a notary), is a trained professional who can provide limited legal services to the public.

Notaries have been around for a long time. Babylonian notaries chiselled the oldest written law into stone over 4000 years ago. At that time, notaries were wise and trusted members of society. Their role was to oversee transactions and guarantee their fairness.

The role has since evolved into a professional service, but its essence is still the same. Notaries still guarantee the fairness and legality of transactions.

When Do You Need a Notary?

There are a number of scenarios in which you should consider hiring a notary. These include:

  • If you’re looking to buy or sell a house
  • If you’re looking to transfer a property to a family member
  • If you’re getting a mortgage
  • If you want to write a will, a representation agreement, or a power of attorney
  • If you or your spouse are planning on travelling with your children
  • If you need to sign an affidavit
  • If you’re moving to another country and need documents notarized

Many people think that they should hire a lawyer to do these things. I’ve written about the difference between lawyers and notaries in the past, but here’s what you need to know in a nutshell:

BC Notaries are experts in the areas we choose to practice.  

If we act for you in a residential real estate transaction, for example; our experience will help us to identify issues and deal with them before they become problems.

The Difference Between Lawyers and Notaries

If we do get to a place where litigation is necessary, we have a network of trusted referral partners and we will find a lawyer who’s an expert at litigation.  

What Can Bc Notaries Do for You?

BC Notaries have professional standards dictated by the Notaries Act of BC. They also are governed by the rules, by-laws and best practices dictated by The Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia.

That means that at David Watts Notary Public we are certified experts, and can help you with all your notary needs.

1. REAL ESTATE TRANSFERS

We help you complete you with Purchases, Sales, Mortgages and Family Transfers.

2. PERSONAL PLANNING DOCUMENTS

Prepare for the future with Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Representation Agreements.

3. NOTARIZATION

General Notarizations and Certified True Copies of Original Documents as well as Notarize your signature on:

  • Travel Letters
  • Affidavits
  • Statutory Declarations
  • Letters of Invitation
  • Passport Documents
  • Various Applications

4. INTERNATIONAL AUTHENTICATION AND LEGALIZATION SERVICES

Get Documents authenticated and legalized for use in Canada and around the world.

Get In Touch

To find out more including information about our processes and receiving a quote please call or email us.  We are happy to assist you directly or to provide a referral for someone who can help.

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