Death and taxes. Rumour has it, you can’t escape either of them. If you have figured out a work-around, please let me know! Until then, as long you’ve got worldly goods and loved ones, basic estate planning instruments are must-have materials for almost everyone. That’s true even if you are relatively young, and you expect to be around for years to come.

But what makes for good, basic estate planning at any age? Usually, your plans don’t have to be very complicated. You just need a few legal documents to cover the essentials, so you and your loved ones are as ready as you can be for whatever the future holds. These include:

  1. Your will
  2. Your living will, or mandate
  3. Your powers of attorney (POAs)

Your Will: Distributing Your Worldly Goods

Your will is your primary tool for specifying what you want to have happen when you pass: who gets what, plus who will be in charge of making it so. What if you don’t have a will? That’s called being “intestate,” and your provincial regulations will kick in instead.

As you can imagine, provincial regulations may not reflect your actual preferences, so if you haven’t yet got a relatively current will, I suggest making this a top priority. If your circumstances are straightforward, your will can be too. It should answer 3 key questions:

  1. Who will administer your estate? This is your “liquidator.”
  2. Who will inherit how much of what – and at what age? These are your “beneficiaries.”
  3. If you have dependents, who will take care of them? These are your “guardians.” It’s okay – often advisable – to name different people to oversee the financial versus the daily care of your children.

Check out today’s video for three bonus pointers about how to dispose of obsolete wills, alert your intended liquidator and guardians about their potential roles, and ensure your current estate planning documents are accessible when needed.

Your Living Will or Mandate: Preparing Your Preferences

The will we just covered only takes effect after you die, so any preferences you include there won’t happen until then. A living will lets you make legal arrangements for when you are still alive.

Mostly, your living will specifies the kinds of care you’d like to receive – or not – at end of life or during similar emergencies when you cannot speak up for yourself. It also typically designates one or more “mandataries” to fulfil your wishes. This provides two powerful sources of comfort during crises that are plenty stressful already. First, your loved ones won’t have to second-guess what your preferences would have been. It also gives them stronger legal standing to carry out your preferences as specified.

Again, you don’t need to overcomplicate your living will. There are free provincial forms available that will walk you through creating one. Of course, it can be money well spent if you also consult an estate planning attorney to ensure you don’t miss anything vital.

Powers of Attorney (POAs): Powerful Safety Nets

POAs exist to ensure there’s somebody available to administer your property if you are temporarily or permanently unavailable … while you are still alive. Once you pass away, the liquidator(s) specified in your will take over discharging your estate. Or, if you’ve got more elaborate estate plans that call for ongoing oversight of your assets, you may have a trust in place to augment your basic will.

POAs can kick in indefinitely, such as if you’re alive but incapacitated. Or they can cover specified timeframes, such as if you’re on an “off-grid” vacation and you need a temporary stand-in. POAs can be broad, covering a wide range of administrative actions you may need someone to take on your behalf. Or they can be explicit, such as the ability to administer a single account at a single location.

Powers of attorney also can be invaluable if you’re a business owner, and you want to ensure your personal and business interests continue to operate smoothly whether you’re here or there.