Today’s blog was written by Courtney Lanthier, Law Clerk at Fasken LLP
With winter sneaking up on us (rather quickly, I might add) and the travel bans slowly being lifted, we’re bound to get an influx of calls and e-mails from clients wanting to update their estate plans or check in to make sure everything is as it should be.
If you find yourself in this situation, here are a few key points that we should be reminding our clients of:
- While typically Wills and Powers of Attorney are meant to be something you sign once and then don’t think about for a while, it may be beneficial to suggest to clients at the time of signing, or in your reporting letter, that they take a quick look at their documents prior to going on a vacation to make sure their wishes are still the same. Sometimes small changes (i.e. removing a legatee, adding specific gifts or updating an executor) can be done relatively quickly with a simple codicil.
- Remind your clients of the importance of the “disaster provision” (as we so aptly call it). It’s an important clause since it deals with the residue of the estate when a spouse, children and issue have all predeceased. In most cases, clients will decide on a few charities to split the residue, or gift it to other family members. While it can be tough to think about this kind of scenario, it’s still a necessary provision to add to the Will in order to avoid any instances of intestacy.
- Ensure clients know where their wills and other estate documents are stored, as well as who they (or their executors/attorneys) can contact to obtain the documents. Our standard practice is to have our clients sign a Direction Letter that sets out the requirements to release any of the documents. For example, if an executor calls looking for an original or a copy of a will, we will first request a death certificate to make sure that our client is, in fact, deceased. Having a Direction like this in place can help to avoid any future confusion when releasing documents.
- Make sure your clients have a copy, or in some cases an original, of their documents. Once a client has signed their documents, we typically provide them with a hard copy of everything that was signed, and the original wills are stored in a safekeeping facility.
- If a client has signed a Power of Attorney for Personal Care, they may wish to take one or two originals with them and provide them to their named attorneys. This is an acceptable practice, since in some cases, an original Power of Attorney for Personal Care is needed rather urgently.
- If you are providing your client with any originals of documents, in addition to any hard copies, it is important to remind them that these documents should still be kept somewhere safe, such as an at home safe.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of information we should be relaying to our clients, but it’s a start to providing a little extra peace of mind before they board that plane.