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Talking Palliative Care Part 4: Wills, finances and advanced care directives

The topics of financial planning and preparing your will can be complicated and distressing especially at a time when you’d rather focus on your family and your wellbeing. As difficult as tackling these tasks may be, many people describe feeling relieved when they have their financial affairs in order and feel that they can more fully enjoy time with loved ones without worrying about the to-do list in the back of their minds. Today we are breaking down many of the confusing terms that come up when preparing a will and your finances for end-of-life.

Wills

A will is a legal document that outlines how a person wants their property and finances to be divided after death. Things you may want to consider including in a will are:

  • Division of property: In most cases, houses automatically get passed on to a partner. But if you do not have a partner or have other properties that are in your name it is important to identify who or how you would like these properties divided.
  • Cash or investments: If you would like your savings or investments passed on to your partner, children, other family or charity, outlining specifically how you would like it divided should be included in your will as well. Many of these accounts also allow you to name a beneficiary as well.
  • Personal possessions: Other assets like your car or furniture can be included if there is a specific person you would like to inherit them. People often include items of sentimental value, like jewelry, as well to be passed on to loved ones.
  • Guardianship of children: Another important yet sometimes difficult decision is determining who will take care of your children. Even if you have a healthy partner, it may be helpful to have these discussions now so that you can continue to have a voice when it comes to raising your children.

A will also identifies who you would like to name as executor. An executor is the person who is legally responsible for carrying out the terms of your will. Choose an executor whom you trust and has an understanding of how to work with your family and your assets. It may also be helpful to name someone as a back-up in case your first choice cannot take on the responsibility when it comes time. Some people also choose to hire a lawyer to help the executor with some of the administrative duties.

Advanced Care Directives

Often referred to as a living will, an advanced care directive allows your family and healthcare team to know and be able to carry out your wishes at end-of-life when you may no longer be able to voice your preferences out loud. Things to consider including in your directive can include:

  • Pain management
  • Physical care
  • Psychosocial or spiritual support for you and your family
  • Choosing between a home or in-facility death

Choosing who will speak for you is commonly referred to as a substitute decision maker or Power of Attorney. Like your executor, this person should be someone you trust. They should also be someone who you think will be able to handle the responsibility of this task.

Advancecareplanning.ca offers a step-by-step guide to helping you create your directive and dives deep into what you should consider including. 

Fees and taxes

One of the most confusing aspects of financial planning for end-of-life has to be the fees and taxes. If you are planning for all of your investments and bank accounts to go to your partner, adding their name directly to your accounts may be the easiest way as it will allow your assets to go directly to them instead of through probate. If you do not have a partner, naming a beneficiary on each account, loan or policy will help identify who is responsible for what.

Some fees and taxes your estate may be responsible for include probate fees, income tax and capital gains tax.  Probate is the process of legally validating your will and with it comes fees from the province. Each province has different fees for this process. You can find out how much probate your estate may owe here.

Other taxes your estate may be required to pay include capital gains tax, which is owed on half of any interest or profits from your investments or secondary properties. Income tax may also be owed. These taxes are taken before your beneficiaries receive their inheritance. When your final income tax return is filed with the Canada Revenue Agency (something that your executor is responsible for filing) a clearance certificate will be issued and all final assets from the estate will be divided properly.

Here are some additional resources to help you better understand the process of wills, financial planning and taxes: