In Ottawa, "estate planning" refers to all of the decisions affecting how a person's property is going to be disposed of after their death, as well as the process of implementing those decisions when the time comes.
Estate planning often requires the advice of a legal and/or financial expert, because the issues involved can be confusing, and are considered by most to be extremely important. A flawed estate plan might create conflict between your survivors, resulting in your intentions not being given effect.
In addition to post-death decisions, estate planning also concerns matters that might affect you during your life, such as granting power of attorney to a family member or trusted friend in case you become unable to make your own decisions regarding your finances or medical care. Additionally, effective estate planning can minimize the impact that estate taxes and court fees will have on your final disposition to your loved ones.
The last thing a person wants to think about is the possibility that, after their death, their survivors are fighting over some part of their estate plan that's ambiguous or otherwise contentious. If you want to prevent this, or at least make it far less likely, you should have the help of an Ottawa attorney every step of the way.
Common Features of Ottawa Estates
Will: This is a legal document which transfers ownership of the testator's (the person making the will) property to named beneficiaries after the testator's death. The beneficiaries can be just about anyone the testator chooses, but smaller estates, usually only include family members, and maybe very close friends. If you want, you can place conditions on gifts (say, leaving a certain amount of money to your son, but only if he graduates college before he turns 25 - this is just an example). However, a will can't actually compel anyone to do anything, and some conditional gifts won't be enforced, usually because they involve an illegal act, or require a person to marry or refrain from marrying a certain person.
Living Will: This is a document which lays out instructions for your medical care, should you become so sick or badly harmed that you are unable to express your wishes. It should state under what situations you want to remain on life support. A well-drafted living will can prevent you from being kept alive in a permanent vegetative state (if that is not what you want), while ensuring that you receive medical care as long as you have a chance at recovery.
Power of Attorney: Power of attorney, while important, is not to be used lightly. This is because it involves granting someone else the power to make legally-binding decisions on your behalf. Normally, your spouse will automatically have power of attorney if you become incapacitated. If you are not married, however, you need to make a document explicitly granting that authority to someone you trust (a life partner or close family member, for instance).
Funeral Arrangements: Whatever your preference on this matter (if you have a preference) you should make it known to your family both verbally and in writing. If you have very specific wishes concerning the final disposition of your mortal remains, you should not put those instructions in your will. Or, if you do, you should also put them somewhere else. Wills are usually not read for quite some time after a person dies, and the funeral is normally long over by then, so it will be too late to follow your instructions.
Do I Need a Ottawa Estates Lawyer?
A flawed estate plan in Ottawa can result in those affected by it being confused as to your intent, which can then lead to disputes between them. A brilliant attorney can commonly avoid this confusion by ensuring that there is as little ambiguity as possible in your will and other related documents.