Wills, Estates and Personal Planning

Estate planning involves making your will, the legal document that instructs your executor (or trustee) how to administer your estate after your death.

To prepare for making a will you should make a list of the following:

  • Your legal name (any aliases) and address
  • Full name and address of whom you wish to appoint as your executor
  • Full name and address of whom you wish to appoint as an alternate executor
  • A brief description of your assets
  • A detailed description of any items or specific sums of money you wish to leave to your beneficiaries
  • How you want to distribute the balance of your estate (often referred to as the residue of your estate) after specific items or money has been given, if any.
  • Full names and addresses of all beneficiaries
  • If a beneficiary should predecease you, who should receive his or her share?
  • If you have children under 19 years of age, the name and address of the person(s) you wish to designate as guardian
  • Information on any burial or cremation arrangements you may have

Choosing your Executor

Your executor is responsible for administering your estate, arranging your funeral, proving the will, liquidating the estate, paying debts, distributing assets as the will directs and many other duties.

Choosing an executor is a very important decision. It is important that your executor be able to keep proper records and be available for an extended period of time to administer your estate. You should be sure to discuss this responsibility with your potential executor as it is a very time consuming job.

According to the Trustee Act an executor may earn compensation of up to 5% of the gross value of the estate.

An independent executor can often resolve conflicts among siblings or disappointed relatives. Some people choose an independent person such as a notary, accountant or a trust company if they haven’t any family close by or they suspect there may be some conflict of interest among beneficiaries.

Personal Planning

Personal planning involves making arrangements for while you are alive but may need help due to illness, injury or disability. The legal planning documents include: a Power of Attorney; Representation Agreement and an Advance Directive. These documents touch on all aspects of your life: financial and legal matters, and health care and personal care.

Powers of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows your attorney (the person appointed by you) to manage your legal (including real estate) and financial affiars in your place. This is particularly useful if you become incapacitated due to the physical or mental health problems, or in the event of your absence.

Who can be my Attorney?

The person appointed as your attorney should be someone who is prepared to accept the responsibility. The person must be at least 19 years old, must be mentally capable and understand what it means to have the power of attorney or to be an attorney. You can appoint your spouse or partner, a friend or family member.

You can appoint more than one person. An attorney’s authority starts from the moment the power of attorney is signed, not when the need arises so it is essential that the person be trustworthy.

Representation Agreements

A representation agreement is a tool that allows your appointed representative to make personal and health care decisions for you if you become incapacitated. There are 2 types of Representation Agreements, Standard (section 7) and Enhanced (section 9). Standard Representation Agreements cover routine financial and/or health care decisions, while enhanced Representation Agreements give broader powers to the representative including refusing health care necessary to preserve life (life support).

Learn more by reading an interview Vicki did with a local financial planner who is a certified Elder Planner Counselor.

Advance Directives

An Advance Directive are written instructions about what health care you do or do not want if you become incapable and health care decisions need to be made. An Advance Directive does not appoint a person to act on your behalf.

Planning for your future legal, financial, health care and personal affairs can appear to be an overwhelming task. At Sterling Notary, we take the time to understand your needs and address your questions in a practical, professional manner.