Odds are that you don’t have a will.
A survey published earlier this year by Canadian insurance company LawPRO (Lawyers Professional Indemnity Company) showed that more than 56 per cent of Canadians surveyed did not have a signed will, and 71 per cent didn’t have a signed power of attorney.
No one wants to think about death, let alone put it into writing. But being financially responsible includes making sure your affairs are in order should the worst happen. Particularly if you are getting married, having a child or buying a home, it’s a smart idea to take some extra time to get a will drawn up.
Who Needs a Will? Anyone with a spouse, children or other dependent, or anyone with assets.
What About Power of Attorney? This is a document that gives someone the right to act on your behalf if you are alive but physically or mentally unable to make decisions. There’s a Power of Attorney for Property (allowing someone to make financial decisions for you) and a Power of Attorney for Personal Care (governing what you eat, where you live and what kind of medical care you would receive if you were incapacitated). There’s also a Living Will, which outlines your wishes should you become unable to make decisions about your own medical care.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Draw Up a Will? Probably. Alternatively, you can choose to go to a website like legalwills.ca (where a will costs $34.95) or formalwill.ca (where it will set you back $49). Enlisting a real, live lawyer is likely to cost you at least a couple hundred dollars, but it’s the safer route. If you make an error with a DIY will, it could tie up your estate and require your family to hire a lawyer to correct your mistakes.
How Do I Find a Lawyer? The first step is always a personal referral. Ask a trusted friend or family member to recommend a lawyer they’ve worked with. If that’s not possible, you can find someone in your city through Lawyer Locate, a website that offers a network of Canadian lawyers. You can also try the Law Society in your province (eg. Ontario’s Law Society of Upper Canada), the Law Society of Alberta or the Law Society of British Columbia) — they will provide a list of licensed legal professionals. Lastly, your workplace’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) should also be able to refer you to a lawyer in your area.
Shelley White is a Canadian freelance writer, editor and TV producer who contributes regularly to The Globe and Mail, The Huffington Post, The Grid and Spinner.com. Shelley is also a mother of two who aspires to never again carry a credit card balance.