All About Estates

There’s no better time than the present

Six reasons to start estate planning early!

Estate planning is a part of life that, despite best intentions, is often moved to the back burner. It’s not surprising; many individuals struggle to consider or discuss their own mortality and that of their closest loved ones. Nobody is excited to review what happens if their functioning declines, or worse, if they suddenly pass away.

However, if these discussions are avoided for too long, we may be left rushing to complete our planning. This is often a result of unforeseen factors including an unexpected health event, an accident causing significant harm or injury, the sudden loss of a loved one, or in reaction to a form of manipulation or abuse.

Below are six common issues we see in practice with delaying our estate planning for too long:

  1. If a decline in your health status or a physical injury affects your capacity, you may be deemed unable to complete your estate documents. You must meet certain thresholds of mental capacity to execute standard estate documents such as wills and powers of attorney. If an illness, injury, or other event leaves you unable to give instructions to your lawyer and appreciate the effects of these instructions, they may be unable to assist you altogether. This may leave you with no assistance to manage your finances during your incapacity and cause significant delay and cost to your loved ones in administering your estate.
  2. Delaying your planning may result in a delay in your care. For example, if you do not have a Power of Attorney when you fall ill or are involved in an accident, your finances may go unmanaged until you are able to have this document drafted or recommence managing your finances. This could result in missed bill payments, an effect on your credit score, and/or losses in your investment portfolio, among other concerns.
  3. Your ability to understand complex issues may be affected if you are under a significant amount of stress, experiencing pain, or otherwise preoccupied/distracted. Though you may meet the legal requirement of mental capacity, this does not mean you are at your best during these stressful time. This could cloud your thinking and potentially affect the end result of your estate plan.
  4. You may feel rushed to make decisions that are not in your best interests. This is particularly true for clients with a time constraint, such as those heading into emergency surgeries. You may simply run out of time to discuss your estate matter fulsomely with your legal and financial professionals or your loved ones, resulting in a less-than-ideal estate plan. This rush may result in decisions made without the necessary consultation and consideration of your affairs that would better serve your loved ones.
  5. Your loved ones may not know your wishes, particularly those relating to your health and personal care if you do not have updated documents. In Nova Scotia, our clients complete documents called Personal Directives that name someone to make personal and medical decisions if the maker cannot. This document may provide instructions to the named delegate, in particular if someone is managing a chronic condition or has specific wishes due to religious or cultural beliefs. If no such document is available or if you haven’t spoken with your appointed delegate, your personal and healthcare wishes may not be sufficiently met.
  6. The cost of emergency legal services may be higher than those obtained in usual circumstances. The hourly rates your professionals charge may increase in these circumferences due to the need to set aside other client files to prioritize yours on short notice. You may also be charged the cost of mileage if a visit to your home or the hospital is required. Though the cost would certainly be well worth it during such an emergency, careful, advanced planning will likely keep more in your pocket.

 

These are just a handful of the significant problems created by waiting for the ‘rainy day’ to come before starting your planning.

The best advice: start your estate plan today! Meet with your legal, financial, and accounting professionals to ensure your plan is personalized to your unique circumstances; long before the grey clouds appear.

 

Anne McFarlane, BA, JD, TEP | Estate and Trust Consultant

About Scotiatrust

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