Note: This is the first in a series of blog posts on the difficult conversations we all need to have with our loved ones about illness, incapacity and death.

I do many seminars in Cornwall and area on the topic of estate planning and, more specifically, about Wills and Powers of Attorney. In every seminar I give, I tell people that no matter how “good” your documents are, they might as well be worthless if you don’t talk about the documents with your family or loved ones.

Illness, incapacity, death and dying are uncomfortable topics for almost everyone, so the tendency is just to avoid it. I know many of my clients do stay away from the topic entirely, since I often get phone calls from people who knew their loved one had a Will but never asked about who the lawyer was who prepared it, where the Will was located, or what it said. In many cases, those Wills may never be found. Or, where there was no Will, the family members have no idea what the wishes of the deceased were and thus are unable to honour those wishes.

As someone who is involved in the legal side of incapacity and death, but who has been involved in the personal side as well, I urge all of you to have these difficult conversations now. I hope that this series of articles will help you “tear off the band-aid” so to speak and get talking about these issues – today!

Whether you are an adult who will soon be (or is already) taking care of your elderly parent or whether you are parents of young children, you need talk about these issues with the people in your life who would be called upon if something happens to you. And, if you are going to be acting on behalf of someone else, it is especially important for you to review things so you will know what to do when the time comes.

What are the conversations you need to have? I understand it can be hard to get the process started. While there are many places to begin, a basic place is the question:

What legal documents do you have in place?

You need to know if your loved ones have the three basic documents all adults need:

  1. A Will;
  2. A Power of Attorney for Property; and,
  3. A Power of Attorney for Personal Care.

It is important to find out what legal documentation is in place, and also where it is stored so that the documents can be found when needed. It is also important to ensure that your loved ones have the right documents in place before death or incapacity occurs.

I will continue this series in my next column where you will find out more important questions you need to ask in the difficult conversations process.

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Michele R.J. Allinotte is the owner of Allinotte Law Office in Cornwall, Ontario and she helps her clients make the best decisions for themselves, their families and their businesses. Her practice focuses on the areas of business law, estates and estate planning and real estate. Visit www.YourCornwallLawyer.com to get her FREE Peace of Mind Personal Inventory to make sure that your family has all the information they need.