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10 documents you need for end of life

*story originally published on

According to a 2018 poll by the Angus Reid Institute, 51% of Canadians don’t have a will. Of those, around half believe that they’re too young, and the other half don’t think they have enough assets.

The rest simply aren’t able to even turn their heads to the thought of the end of life or passing away. That’s okay. We get it. Planning end-of-life arrangements could mean that you have to consider something that may not be comfortable or have tough conversations with loved ones.

 If you’re in the 51% and reading this, we can help you change that today.

If you currently do not have a Will, then any property you own will be distributed according to a government-mandated formula when you pass. In some cases, your wishes for who receives what following your passing may not be honoured. This is the main reason why planning and making a will is so important. 

In some cases, people avoid estate planning because they believe that they do not have much money. Despite that feeling, it’s vital that what you do have ends up where you want it. It could be to family, a friend or that charity you’ve always supported. 

You plan for a vacation by ensuring you have your travel tickets, insurance and hotel confirmations so that everything is as you want it to be and nothing is left to chance. End of life planning has the same purpose but is more than just a will.

End-of-life planning may seem like a chore, but it is a necessary one. If we take a step back, the real reason we do it is to ensure that our wishes are known when we pass. This will help take the burden off your family to do the guesswork and reduces the chances that your estate will be allocated to a place you didn’t want it to go.

If you’re starting to think about estate planning, here is a list of documents that you may want to consider collecting. 

1. A living will

A living will is a document that explains what medical treatment you want, don’t want and under what circumstances. Some of the things that are in the living will come from your conversations around your advanced care planning. If you have not done any advance care planning, check out Eirene’s free guide to start. 

Living wills can also outline your end of life arrangements such as cremation, funeral ceremony and viewing wishes so that your loved ones can respect your final wishes. Once you’ve determined how you’d like to be laid to rest, give a copy to your family and keep a copy somewhere easily accessible.

2. Physician’s orders for life-sustaining treatment

The Supreme Court of Canada has written that a patient has the right to refuse treatment, even if that treatment could sustain life. In discussion with your doctor, you can have your wishes recorded in your medical records.

If you have not considered this aspect of things, it’s okay. These conversations are tough! Our Advance Care Planning guide can help with this specific area and help you understand your options. 

3. Power of attorney (POA) for personal care

Choose one person who understands what quality of life means to you. It’s different for everyone, but this person should know when you wish treatment to be withdrawn. There is a myriad of online resources that will help you prepare your POA and make it legal. Our Advance Care Planning guide can help you navigate this area and understand the difference between a will and a POA.

4. Power of attorney

Choose someone you trust who can take care of your bills and financial affairs if you are incapacitated. This is separate from a power of attorney for personal care but can be the same person.

5. DNR – Do not resuscitate documents

A DNR may be included in your Physician’s order, but if it is essential to you, it’s worth making this clear more than once as resuscitation may not be classed as a medical intervention.

6. Diminishing capacity letters

This document provides permission for professionals to call specific individuals if they notice a diminishment in your physical, cognitive or psychological capacity. 

7. Organ Donation

Each province has a system for registering your wishes, and you should keep the card/form somewhere in your wallet. Make sure to tell your family in advance so they understand your decision. In some cases, there are online forms that you can fill out if you are interested in donating your organs following your passing. 

8. Life Insurance

If you are earning an income and pass away, those who are relying on you or your income as a dependent will go away. If you want to make sure the people you love are taken care of financially when you’re gone, then you need to invest in life insurance. Consider starting a funeral fund as well. Read Eirene’s blog on how to do it here.

9. Personal property memorandum

This document can be updated regularly without changing your will, although it forms part of it. It lets everyone know who gets what from your possessions and can help avoid disagreements.

10. Digital assets memorandum

Similar to the personal property memo, this document specifies who will own or have access to things like social media accounts and emails upon your death. Check out Eirene’s blog on how to close or cancel accounts when someone passes to get an idea of the process.

Your feelings may change over time, so you must review the documents annually, so your wishes are always current. We suggest that you update your end of life documents every time you reach a significant life milestone. From a new birth to buying a new house, making changes along with these big moments can help you keep on top of it all. 

Anita Chauhan is the Head of Marketing for Eirene, a startup dedicated to making end-of-life and cremation easier to navigate, transparent, and more affordable for Canadians. Check out more resources on navigating the end of life here