Estate planning can be a confusing and daunting process in the best of circumstances. With the current COVID-19 measures affecting many aspects of life in British Columbia, the process can look even more complicated. Rest assured that if you are self-isolated you can still draft and execute the estate planning documents that meet your circumstances and needs.
This article should not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Please contact us for specific questions and advice about your situation and we would be happy to help you.
Estate Planning Basics
When we talk about estate planning, we generally talk about three main documents: the Will, the Representation Agreement and the Power of Attorney. Each of these three documents serves a specific purpose in what we call the Estate Plan.
Your will governs how your estate (meaning all the things you own including property, individual items, bank accounts, company shares etc.) is paid out after you have passed away. It appoints an executor to be the one to help administer your estate, can give you the option to appoint a guardian for your minor children, and lets you choose how your estate is paid out on your death.
The Representation Agreement is a document that governs who can assist you with medical decisions if you become incapacitated or incapable of making those decisions for yourself. It gives you the option to appoint a representative and leave them guidance on how you feel about different types of medical care.
Power of Attorney
Like the Representation Agreement, the Power of Attorney is a document used before you pass away if you are incapacitated or incapable of making decisions for yourself. The Power of Attorney appoints an individual, or individuals, to assist you with decisions regarding finances and property.
What does the estate planning process look like?
Typically, we will start estate planning by sending you our estate planning questionnaire to get an overview of your financial and familial situation. After we receive the questionnaire, we have an initial meeting to discuss options. This meeting can happen either in person, by phone or by videoconference. We then complete drafts and send them to you for review. Once the review is complete, we have a final meeting to sign the final documents.
Do I need to come into the office to complete estate planning?
Although typically these meetings are completed in person, we are working with alternative options for scheduling and planning meetings for estate planning, primarily using telephone and videoconferencing meetings.
To execute your estate planning documents, you do not need to come into our offices. However, the documents cannot be completed by video conferencing. If you are completing them at home, they must be witnessed by two adults who are not beneficiaries, representatives or attorneys under the documents, or the spouse, children, parents or employees of anyone named as an executor, attorney or representative.
We can talk you through the process of signing your estate planning process by distance provided you have two individuals you can use as witnesses who can, in person, witness you sign all necessary documents.
NOTE: the execution requirements for wills, powers of attorney and representation agreements are quite strict and need to be strictly adhered to in order to validly execute your documents. This is particularly so for wills. If you have any questions about this process, please seek legal advice.
We know that these are stressful times. If estate planning is a priority for you, rest assured that we can work within whatever measures you may be needing for self-isolation or quarantine. Our hope is that our expertise may help to relieve some stress and give you a sense of peace in the many unknowns of the pandemic.