Estate Planning

Reputation. Respect. Result.

Estate Planning is about planning to protect the interests of your family, both in the short term and with an eye to the future. The foundation of a strategic Estate Plan includes a Will, Power of Attorney and Representation Agreement. Our lawyers can work with you to ensure your family and estate are protected for the years ahead, so you can focus on the more important things in life. Take a look below to see how we can help.


A Will is a legal document that allows you to set out what you would like done with your estate after you die. Your estate consists of any land, house, money, investments, personal items and other assets that you own. Note that your estate will generally not include assets you own jointly with another person, or assets that you have named designated beneficiaries.

Appointing an Executor

One of the important components of your Will is to appoint a person to be the executor of your estate. The executor will be responsible for securing the assets of your estate, paying your debts and taxes, and dividing what remains of your estate among the beneficiaries. In most cases, people will appoint a son/daughter, friend, relative, professional or trust company to act as executor. In some cases, it will make sense to appoint more than one executor to act together as co-executors. It is also important to appoint an alternate executor in case your first appointed executor predeceases you or is unable to act.

Appointing a Guardian

If you have minor children, then a Will can be used to appoint a guardian for your minor children in the event of your death before they become adults. In most cases, people will appoint a sibling or parent. When considering the appropriate guardian, it is important to consider where your guardian lives and if they have the means to take care of your children.

Naming Beneficiaries

A Will allows you to decide who you would like to benefit from your estate, and to what portions. In most cases, beneficiaries may be your spouse, children, siblings, friends or charities. It is important to note that you have legal duties to provide for your spouse and children under the Wills, Estates and Succession Act. We would recommend speaking with a lawyer if you are considering leaving your spouse or a child out of your Will.

If you die without a Will

Without a Will you lose control over the administration of your estate. Firstly, you will not be able to decide who acts as your executor (called administrator in this circumstance). This means that a family member will have to step up to apply to the court to become administrator of your estate. Otherwise, the Public Guardian and Trustee will be forced to get involved. Secondly, you will lose control over who is to benefit from your estate. Under the Wills, Estates and Succession Act, there is a formula used to determine who gets what if you die without a Will. This formula may or may not be how you would have wanted your estate to be divided.

Dying without a Will can also be more expensive for your estate. It is more likely that there will be a dispute of some kind, and if the Public Guardian and Trustee gets involved, then their fees can be substantial. Moreover, by setting up your Will, you can establish an estate plan around it, which usually involves taking steps to minimize tax liability and minimize grounds for dispute. Without taking these steps, your estate is likely to pay much more in tax and potential legal fees and court costs then is necessary.

Have a Will already?

If you already have a Will, we would recommend reviewing it every few years to make sure that it is current and there are no changes required. For example, your executor or guardian may have moved or may no longer be able to act, or a beneficiary may have passed away.

Consider carefully who to appoint as your attorney. You cannot appoint anyone who is paid to provide you with health or personal care or who works at a facil-ity through which you receive health or personal care, unless that person is your child, parent or spouse. It’s important that you trust the person’s honesty and judgment. If you have no family member or friend that you can or want to appoint, you can appoint a respected professional such as your lawyer, accountant or trust company.

Yes, you can appoint more than one person as your attorney. Multiple attorneys can be authorized to act (1) as an alternative if the other is unable or unwilling to act; (2) jointly; or (3) independently of one another. We usually recommend that multiple attorneys be authorized to act independently of one another. The reason for this is because alternate attorneys cause unnecessary hassle which requires doctors’ opinions, statutory declarations, and sometimes court hearings to prove the first-appointed attorney is unable or unwilling to act. Joint attorneys on the other hand are logistically cumbersome because this will always require that all of the attorneys be present when making decisions and managing your affairs. When attorneys can act independently, decisions can be made quickly in urgent situations and the POA will continue to be helpful if one of your attorneys were unable to act promptly.

Most institutions (such as banks) require the original document to allow the attor-ney to act on behalf of their client. This is to prevent copies from circulating and misuse of the document. The POA document must be kept in safe place (pref-erably not a safety deposit box or a business location that isn’t accessible at all times) to allow the attorney access in an urgent situation.

  • to act honestly and in good faith
  • to act honestly and in good faith
  • to not dispose of any property gifted in your Will
  • to keep your assets separate from the attorney’s assets
  • to keep proper records

The attorney’s bankruptcy, your separation from an attorney who is your spouse (married or common-law), dissolution of a corporate attorney, or if your attorney is convicted of committing a criminal offence.


A representation agreement is an estate planning document that lets you appoint another person, called a “Representative”, to make personal care and health care decisions on your behalf. It also covers situations where you may not have the capacity to make health care decisions, such as arranging rehabilitation after stroke or consent for surgery as a result of a traffic accident.

A representation agreement creates a contract between you and the Representative. The Representative has certain duties they must follow. For example, the Representative must consult with you, as much as is reason-able, to determine your wishes. If you become mentally incapacitated, the Representative has the authority to have the final say on your wishes despite disagreement by other members of your family. This authority applies in all situations, not just emergencies.

If there is no representation agreement, the person or persons who wish to manage your affairs in the event of your mental incapacity must first apply to the court—a lengthy and expensive process. The applicants will then be known as a “Committee” and their conduct will be governed by provincial legislation. To protect your interests the provincial Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee will monitor the actions of the Committee under direction from the court. Government intervention usually brings with it a number of additional delays and expenses, all of which can be avoided by having a representation agreement.