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What is a Will? What about a Power of Attorney (POA)?

Most Canadians already know what a will is and the importance of having one. When you stop breathing, a will explains how you want your estate to be taken care of and distributed accordingly. A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives someone else the ability to act on your behalf if you become mentally incapable of making decisions for yourself. As a nurse, I take care of several incapacitated patients and I will tell you this, POAs means business. One type of POA deals with finance and gives the person you choose the legal authority to manage your assets and the second one lets you appoint a body for your health care. You can name the same person as your attorney for both finance and health care, or you can name different people. Both documents are necessary. Agreed. Wait a minute. A survey done by TD a couple of months ago explains half of Canadians (50 percent) do not have a will. Plus, the survey also found that more than one quarter (28 percent) of Canadians without a will are between the ages of 53 and 71. Really? WTF. Yes, we are all living longer but what? You are never going to die? You have the Benjamin Button disease? I don’t get it. Grow up and make a will.

Sure, if you are single like me (Hello Ladies!) with no dependants – you don’t have to rush but as soon as you get married and have your first kid, getting a will drafted should move up the list of your priorities really fast. Akin to a will, a POA is very important as well. If you get sick or get involved in an accident, please forgive me for reminding you this but I will – the bills won’t stop. If you have never executed POAs, good luck. Your spouse will not be able to touch your bank account. Worse, you can’t even get access as the disability payments roll in. ICK. Soooo, if you want to make sure your finances are in good hands, you need someone to act on your behalf. This person would be responsible for making financial decisions while you are unable to make them yourself. An example would be if your mortgage comes up for renewal, it might just roll over at the offered rate for a new 5-year term if you had never executed a POA. All of us are aware bank of Canada raised interest rates for first time in seven years recently (To 0.75 per cent from 0.5 per cent). Some predict bank of Canada will raise the interest rate again come October. In this scenario – if you had a variable-rate mortgage, you might have wanted to shop around and lock it in with a fixed mortgage rate. I know I know this is an extreme example. But, you get the point. If you have not executed a POA, you are in trouble. POAs for health care are similar but the appointed person makes medical and personal care decisions. A living will can be drawn as well and if you become incapacitated, a living will would communicate your preferences in terms of care. A good example would be you might indicate that you have no desire to remain on life support if it’s essentially all that is keeping you alive. (I would sign for this in a heartbeat. You?)

According to a 2015 fee survey done by Canadian Lawyer Magazine, a simple will on average would cost you $446 on average, a complex will would cost you $1010 on average and an individual POA on average would cost you $187. Likewise, a POA for couples would cost $227 on average and a complex will for couples would cost $1348 on average. These costs seem about right. In his book, Stop Over-Thinking Your Money, Preet Banerjee explains a simple will and set of powers of attorney can be about $400 on the low end. Documents that deal with more complex situations can run a few thousand dollars. Banerjee further explains these documents don’t do any good if no one knows about them. He reminds it’s important to let your loved ones know where you keep them and where to find these documents.

Do you really believe you have the Benjamin Button disease? And you will never get old and wont die. Fine. But, Benjamin Button was a romantic fantasy drama film. There is nothing romantic when you die without a will. Do yourself a huge favour, make a will. Dear reader, without a will, your assets are in jeopardy. Please make a will especially if you are married and have kids. And, if you don’t execute both a financial and a health care power of attorney, you are an irresponsible human being.

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