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Are Your Affairs in Order?

(An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure)

Wills

None of us likes to consider our mortality. Men in particular seem to prefer to avoid the subject, more so than women. Many people talk about making a will but do not follow through.

Making a will is usually a simpler task than most people realize. You don't need to make a list of your assets. What is important is your family situation. For a traditional husband/wife/children family making wills is usually very easy and fits into a standard format. The main decision is simply who would look after the kids upon the death of both parents, followed by the further decision as to whether or not those "guardians" would also be the executors to look after the financial matters of the estate. It is most common to provide that on the death of the last of the two spouses, the estate of the survivor is to be divided equally among the children and their survivors along the blood lines.

Families involving second marriages and stepchildren can be very difficult to deal with in a will--a lawyer needs to suggest some creative solutions to take into account conflicting loyalties.

The people who should have wills the most are people with non-traditional family situations, parents with children under 18, spouses who have divorced or separated, and single adults. The Wills and Succession Act provides a scheme of distribution of the estate of anyone who dies without a will, but it can lead to some quirky or even disastrous results. Indeed the handling of an estate of someone who has died without a will, or with an ambiguous will that he wrote out himself, can be the best illustration of "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Lawyers also have another saying, that "the lawyer's best friend is the man who makes his own will." That refers to the fact that it is very easy for an ambiguity to creep into a self-drafted will made by someone who isn't used to considering the various permutations and combinations or the legal effects of the words that he writes down. The person who makes his own will is the lawyer's best friend because the fees a lawyer would charge for litigating an argument over a poorly-drafted will would be many times what the cost of a properly-drafted will would have been.

Some people take great pains to write down what amounts or specific items numerous people should get upon their death. I usually urge divisions among beneficiaries in terms of proportions or percentages rather than in dollar amounts or specific items, but it is certainly up to the person involved and we can talk about what you had in mind.

Since your death would be such a critical event to any dependants that you may have at the time, your affairs should be in order at all times. Your will should always properly express your wishes, and you should always have sufficient life insurance to ensure that your dependants would be able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle without your income.

How else can you have your affairs in order?

Enduring Powers of Attorney

An Enduring Power of Attorney appoints a person or persons to take charge of your assets, usually effective only upon your mental incapacity. Where you would become mentally incompetent without such a document someone can apply to the Court using the procedure provided for in the Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act, to have him appointed as trustee of a mentally incapacitated person, and also as guardian of the person. That procedure, however, is fairly cumbersome and expensive, and although the Enduring Power of Attorney does not deal with guardianship matters it is a much cheaper way of having a trustee appointed. The catch is that you have to make the Enduring Power of Attorney before you become mentally incapacitated, just like you need to make a will before you are dead.

Personal Directives

Upon admission to a hospital you will likely be asked whether you have a Personal Directive. A Personal Directive usually appoints your spouse, or the relative or friend of your choice, to stand in your place to make medical decisions for you if you should be unable to make such decisions at the time. It also usually goes on to provide an expression of your wishes that heroic measures not be taken to keep you alive in the event of a medical condition that you will not recover from. Such an expression could be helpful to guide your family members to make the decision that you would have wanted under extreme circumstances.

My Normal Fees

Single Will, Enduring Power of Attorney, and Personal Directive: $300.00
Pair of Wills, Enduring Powers of Attorney and Personal Directives for Husband and Wife: $350.00
Plus G.S.T.

A higher fee may be requested when your documents would become more complex and require the drafting of clauses specific to the individuals, or where time-consuming consideration of personal situations such as a second marriage is necessary.

Please telephone me with any questions you may have: 780-424-6660.