In Ontario there are three legal documents you should have in place to help you in case of an incapacitating illness, or death. These are:
- Last Will and Testament
- A Continuing Power of Attorney for Property
- A Power of Attorney for Personal Care
Your lawyer can describe and provide advice on the use of each these legal instruments. There are also books available describing the use of each these legal documents. Many bookstores and office supply stores carry “Will Kits” which can help with a simple will.
The Ministry of the Attorney General has a kit available to setup the Power of Attorney documents, if you choose not to have your lawyer draw them up for you.
In the U.S. there is an organization that has developed a document that can be used to provide direction on medical care in case of serious illness. This is “Five Wishes.” It is a legal document in 40 states that describes what the writer would like to happen if they are unable to care for themselves. The wishes are:
- The Person I Want to Make Care Decisions for Me When I Can’t
- The Kind of Medical Treatment I Want or Don’t Want
- How Comfortable I Want to Be
- How I Want People to Treat Me
- What I Want My Loved Ones to Know
There are two discussions that may be difficult to have with your loved ones. The first is about what will happen when you die – your funeral arrangements, and the disposition of your estate. Your Last Will and Testament should describe your desires.
The second discussion is what to do if you are ill and unable to provide medical direction. Five Wishes helps with this. Ask your loved ones to read it and then discuss with them what your wishes are. Let them know how you’d like to be treated when you’re seriously ill. Then incorporate this information into the Power of Attorney for Personal Care.
At the same time, ensure you have appointed a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property to help with your financial affairs while you are ill. Finally, make sure you have given copies of both of these documents to the people you have appointed to speak for you when you cannot.
We encourage you to seek professional advice for complete information on any legal matters; this post is to help you begin thinking about the documents we all need to have in place.