Trends in Estate Planning
I have noticed some new trends surfacing in estate planning. Over this past year, I have seen a subtle shift in the mindset of many clients.
They are re-examining their Personal Planning documents to assess whether they have appointed the best (or most appropriate) people in their legal documents. The four documents are Will, Power of Attorney, Representation Agreement, and the Advance Health Care Directive.
They are looking at their Power of Attorney and questioning whether they have the right person appointed as their attorney. Likewise, they are re-examining their Representation Agreement to see if their current representative’s views, beliefs, and values align with their own.
For example, recently I had parents return to my office to discuss changing their Power of Attorney documents. The idea of changes always trigger the question, “Why do you want to change the documents?” The clients were unsure about how much to share. They commented that their son had beliefs about the pandemic that made them feel uncomfortable and they no longer want to have him named as the alternate attorney in their Power of Attorney documents.
The pandemic has created such a polarizing effect—it is causing families to reflect and re-adjust their Personal Planning documents. As always, I tell my clients that the documents I draft reflect their views at that moment in time . . . they are allowed to adjust and change their documents as time progresses.
The polarizing ideas around the pandemic lead to questions about who can make decisions for you if you are not able to make them.
The clients in my example had not yet done a Representation Agreement. I explained that without one, the medical team would follow the statutory format for decision-makers. In their case, if they could not make decisions for themselves, their situations would default equally to their daughter and their son.
That was shocking news to my clients; they were jolted to move forward with drafting Representation Agreements— appointing their daughter as their alternate representative, thereby limiting their son’s ability to interfere with the parents’ medical wishes. As a reminder, a Representation Agreement legally appoints who can make health care and personal care decisions on your behalf.
I have seen seniors update their documents . . . and younger people, too, because they don’t want their immediate family members stepping in to make essential personal and health care decisions.
A young woman in her late 20s was very clear that she did not want her parents or her sister making her health care decisions because she wanted two very good long-time friends—more closely aligned with her values—to make health care choices on her behalf.
There are clear circles drawn around the various opinions circulating about COVID and people are identifying with the different ideas. The virus is creating the opportunity to re-examine who they want to support them if there is a medical crisis and to revisit, re-examine, and carefully select the best people to support them, if required.
Specifically with a Representation Agreement, I always say you want to choose someone who aligns with your values and beliefs.
The trend of updating documents and adding missing documents to your Personal Planning portfolio is a significant movement. I feel it will continue well into 2022, as more people will look to BC Notaries to help draft and update their Personal Planning documents.
Representation Agreements will become more of a focus for people so they feel confident they have the right individuals in place to make health and personal care choices on their behalf.
Morrie Baillie is a BC Notary that focuses exclusively on Personal Planning. One of the Statutory Examiners for the new Notaries (Personal Planning), Morrie is a committee member for the British Columbia Law Institute (Undue Influence Committee), and is Vice President of the BC Notary Association. She has recently joined the dynamic team at Salvador Davis, serving Sidney and the surrounding areas on Vancouver Island.
Posted in Personal Planning