Personal and Estate Planning for First Responders and Frontline Workers

Recently I had the privilege of giving a presentation to members of the North Shore Royal Canadian Mountain Police on Personal and Estate Planning. Having firefighters in my family has made me very conscious of how necessary it is for First Responders to have their legal documents organized.

Approximately 50 members of the local RCMP attended the recent lectures offered them through Wellness seminars covering areas of sleep hygiene, career management, fitness, nutrition, lifestyle, Wills and estates, PTSD and burnout, chaplaincy, and general support services.

It seems to me that those on the frontlines protecting and caring for our communities every day are the very people who need to have adequate estate planning in place. Protecting themselves and their personal family members should also be a top priority in their planning. Police, firefighters, doctors, nurses, and emergency services employees are all occupations where lives are potentially at risk daily, due to their choice of employment.

I was able to provide the seminar attendees with the legal basics on creating and updating records of their assets and liabilities in an Estate Record Keeper. It is essential to know what documents are required in our province for good personal and estate planning:

  • Power of Attorney (granting financial authority)
  • Representation Agreement and Advance Directive (both granting medical authority)
  • Do-Not-Resuscitate documentation
  • Last Will and Testament

Many questions arise when you turn your attention to those basic documents. Based on the scenarios in your individual life, some situations require personal discussions with your trusted legal professional.

It is always important to start with the basics and proceed from there to contact the professionals with the skills to provide specific estate planning advice.

Many individuals don’t know where to start or the relevance of making sure their legal documents are ready. They don’t understand the ramifications of not having a Power of Attorney in place if a person becomes incapable of handling his or her own legal and financial affairs. That can put your next-of-kin in a situation where a Court application to appoint a “Committee” (pronounced comitay in this case) may be necessary to deal with personal assets. That very costly and time-consuming procedure can be avoided by having a current Power of Attorney in place.

A Representation Agreement (to grant medical authority) gives a trusted person (Representative) the ability to make medical decisions if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. The environment of a hospital or care facility can be isolating.

If you appoint a Representative, you will have a trusted advocate with the legal power to help. Through a Representation Agreement document, the medical authorities have permission to discuss your medical history, diagnosis, and prognoses with the Representative who will be informed and then able to make decisions on your behalf.

A Will is required to appoint an Executor/Trustee, to specify:

  • the persons who will receive your estate upon your death;
  • the people who will be the guardian of any minor children (and pets) you have at your death; and
  • what is to happen to your remains.

Without a Will, it would be necessary to apply to the Supreme Court for a Grant of Administration of your Estate to deal with assets registered in your name.

Again, that is a costly procedure requiring the services of a lawyer to prepare the Court application and compile all the required documentation on:

  • who should be appointed by the Court;
  • how to contact your next-of-kin; and
  • your assets.

Due to poor or nonexisting records, relevant information is often never discovered.

Although it does take time and effort to organize your life to ensure you and your loved-ones are protected, you will have great peace-of-mind once that has been done!

If you spend months or even years to plan your next holiday, it is definitely worthwhile to spend time to plan for the management of your estate should you become ill, incapable, or die. Please consult your local BC Notary Public for advice on how to get started. It’s worth it!


Margaret Rankin is a Notary Public practising in North Vancouver, BC.

Posted in Personal Planning