All About Estates


A Will is a written and signed document that names one or more estate trustees to manage your assets and provides a plan for passing your assets on after you die. If you don’t make this plan yourself, the legislature has provided a default plan through statute.

A living will, also known as a “health care advance directive”, is a written statement of your health care wishes in a situation where you become incapacitated and are unable to communicate these wishes to your family and the medical team. While a living will is not legally binding, the wishes expressed in it become effective when you become incapable and ineffective if you come out of the incapacity. The wishes expressed are usually general in nature, relating to accident or disease, as it is impractical to try to anticipate every medical scenario that could occur. For example, you might direct dying not be prolonged where there is an acute life threatening illness of an irreversible nature, chronic debilitating suffering of a permanent nature, or advanced dementia. You might specify approval or refusal of certain treatments, direct whether to provide palliative care and whether you prefer to be cared for and to die at home or in a hospice. You can also express direction that your life be prolonged, and that you be provided all life-sustaining treatments applicable to your medical condition.

An ethical will is a document allowing you to preserve history and to communicate personal values and beliefs, lessons, wisdom, final wishes to your family and/or your hopes for the future after your passing.  Also known as a legacy letter, an ethical will may contain a record of your cherished memories or greatest accomplishments such as moments from childhood, university, marriage, parenthood, career, and travel.  Your will might also contain requests for forgiveness/expressions of gratitude whether individualized for specific family members or more general in nature.

Choosing when to share your ethical will is a highly personal decision and there are no set rules. You may want to share it at a special moment in the recipient’s life, or alternatively, you can preserve it to be given to your loved ones after your passing. An ethical will allows you to share information of a more personal, spiritual and philosophical nature, something more formal estate planning documents often lack.

Lesson Learned – All three types of wills are important documents as they complement one another to create a well-organized and fulsome estate plan.

Until next time,

Jasmine Sweatman

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