It may seem odd for a personal injury lawyer to talk about estate planning, but the issue comes up more often than one would imagine, for one very simple reason – nobody can predict when they may be involved in an accident, and after it happens, it is often too late to go back and make necessary arrangements.
Arrangements? That sounds to most people like planning a funeral, so they avoid estate planning. An estate also includes making arrangements for yourself while you are alive, but possibly unable to look after your own affairs, both financial and in terms of making life decisions.
An example. You are involved in a serious motor vehicle accident and as a result of head injuries, you suffer from an inability to manage your own day to day activities necessary for your welfare. Banking, including paying bills to keep a roof over your head and food on the table. Medical, such as making choices about treatment and care options available to you. Who looks after those decisions for you when you can’t do it for yourself? Most people are fortunate to have family, or perhaps very close and trusted friends who will assume the role of looking after a severely compromised person. But what gives those people the authority to step in and access a bank account, for example, or to tell a doctor that they should go forward with a proposed surgery?
That is where estate planning comes in, and a personal injury lawyer often has to become involved in estate issues. The best way to plan for this possibility in your life is to ensure that you have a valid Power of Attorney. These are documents signed by you when you are still mentally and/or physically capable, that give someone else the power to make decisions and act on your behalf. It is a simple step to take, and yet it is surprising how many people do not have a Power of Attorney.
Without a Power of Attorney, a personal injury lawyer will often have to go through lengthy and complicated steps to have the Court appoint a Guardian under the Substitute Decisions Act. This simply adds time to legal proceedings, along with additional costs and complications.
A personal injury lawyer can often assist in having you make out a Power of Attorney, or when it is appropriate, they will refer you to a specialist in estate planning for that purpose. Either way, your personal injury lawyer can go over your needs and ensure that you are protected.
The same applies to making a Last Will and Testament. The tragic reality is that people may be involved in an accident and then die, leaving behind claims for surviving family members to advance in litigation. Dying without having a Will means that your family, through their personal injury lawyer, may be required to bring additional legal proceedings to have an Administrator appointed for your estate. This usually delays litigation and adds additional costs. By simply having a Will, many of these additional costs can be avoided, making the process easier for the surviving family.
Once again, in many cases your personal injury lawyer can assist you in making a Last Will and Testament, or where it is appropriate, refer you to a specialist in that area.
It is never easy or pleasant to think about future tragedy, but accidents and injuries, as well as death, can happen whether you think about them or not. By taking a few simple steps when you are able, you can ensure that your family is spared the added stresses of uncertainty, either in caring for your needs if you are rendered incapable of looking after yourself in an accident, or carrying on with litigation should you be severely injured or if you die.
Estate planning and discussions about it with your personal injury lawyer should be seen as a way of protecting yourself and your family.
Raphael Barristers are a group of personal injury lawyers that have been representing victims of car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, snowmobile accidents, slip and fall accidents and other personal injury and insurance claims for over 50 years. We have offices in Toronto and Thornhill to service all of Ontario. Please contact Jeffrey Raphael at 416-594-1812 or 1-877-217-1812 for a free consultation