When was the last time you reviewed your estate plan? While this should be done at least every five years or when personal circumstances change, the pandemic reminds us of the value in revisiting plans when circumstances around us also change.
As part of your review, one place to start is with those appointed to help carry out your estate plan: the attorney (mandatory) named under power of attorney (POA) documents and the executor (liquidator) of your Will. Here are a few considerations:
The importance of checking in. When was the last time you spoke to your named executor or attorney about the role? The pandemic may have altered an individual’s capacity to act on your behalf. A front-line healthcare worker may not be able to manage additional duties if under significant work obligations. Immune-compromised individuals may be unable to safely perform certain functions of the role. If the individual is not aware that they have been appointed, consider that court intervention will be required if they are unwilling or unable to act and an alternate has not been named. Under normal circumstances, this is a lengthy and costly process; throughout the pandemic, this has been complicated by further delays as court operations have been impacted in many provinces.
The value in communicating the “basics.” Have you provided direction to help support those acting on your behalf? With your executor/attorney, have you communicated where important documentation can be found? This is important to prevent an unnecessary search, and with many businesses now having reduced operations (including banks, law firms), access to documents may be made more challenging. Is your executor/attorney aware of the financial or healthcare choices you wish to make in the event of incapacity? The health consequences of Covid-19 have highlighted the differing outcomes that some may find more controversial, such as the use of a ventilator for life support.
Is your executor/attorney aware that tasks may need to be carried out differently? There have been positive changes as a result of the pandemic — many provinces have allowed for virtual witnessing of certain documents or electronic submissions for some court-related applications.* However, the pandemic has also made seemingly easy procedures more difficult or time-consuming, such as constraints on in-person meetings. Jointly appointed executors/attorneys may struggle to effectively act in unison. With limits on travel, if an executor/attorney doesn’t live locally, can they fulfil their role?
In some cases, changes may be needed, such as appointing temporary alternatives during this period. However, the impact of the pandemic on those appointed to support you is just one area to contemplate as you review your estate plan. For a discussion on this, or other aspects of your estate plan, please get in touch.
Spring Cleaning Your Estate Plan
Here are five questions that may prompt a review:
- Is my plan structured in a way that promotes efficient administration and limits expense?
- Will my plan minimize family effort or even controversy?
- Are my assets structured to limit exposure to potential liability (i.e., former spouses, creditors)?
- Do I have protection in place to allow my family to make financial and healthcare decisions in the event I am unable?
- Can my family maintain their current lifestyle if I am no longer able to contribute?
*Some measures have been approved under emergency conditions and may be temporary.