I like those bucket list books as much as anyone. 100 places to see before you die. 100 foods to try before you die. 100 adventures to have before you die.
We might like the lists as much for proving to ourselves we've actually done a few (maybe very few) of those things, as we do for their giving us new ideas of places, food and things to do!
I've never heard of a bucket list of legal things to do before you die. So I'm giving you my top five legal things you should do before you die list. And unlike those other lists, for these you really do need to get through all of them - even if it takes you a few years. It's never too late.
1. Make a Will
Even if you don't think you've got much in the way of property or dependants, no one knows better how things should be taken care of after you pass than you do. Everyone needs a will. And I do mean everyone.
2. Make a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property
With people living longer and longer, there's an ever increasing risk that you might become mentally incapable long before you die. You need someone other than the government who is empowered to look after your property, including being able to use your assets to pay for your care.
3. Make a Power of Attorney for Personal Care
You know best what kinds of medical decisions you would like to be made about your life, and a power of attorney for personal care in Ontario (sometimes called by other names elsewhere) is the only way to pass on those wishes if you're incapacitated.
4. Update Your Life Insurance Beneficiaries
Contrary to what many people think, life insurance does not pass through a will if you've named particular beneficiaries in an insurance policy. If you're younger, life insurance might be your greatest asset, but your personal circumstances could have changed from the time you originally named beneficiaries. Make sure the person(s) you wish to receive your insurance payout really are the ones named in the policy.
5. Ensure Someone Knows Where all Your Legal Documents Are
While a few smart places (like Quebec) have government registries for wills, most (like Ontario) don't. So it won't matter how many of these things you've crossed off your bucket list if no one can find the documents you've created!
Ideally, you'll leave them with the lawyer who drafted them. But lawyers get old just like everyone else, and the documents could be difficult to track down. So make sure someone you trust - preferably your executor - knows where to find the documents, and absolutely don't leave them in a safety deposit box because no one may be able to access it without possession of the documents that you've locked in the box.