YOUTH & THE LAW | I'm Turning 18: Planning for the Unexpected.

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Making plans in case something happens to you unexpectedly or you die is not just for older adults.

You're turning 18. It's time to celebrate! But it's also time to face the responsibilities of adulthood. And one of those responsibilities is planning for the unexpected.

Maybe you've heard your parents or grandparents talk about their Will? Or their medical directive or power of attorney?

What are these legal documents?

Chances are, you have heard of these documents. But in case you have not, here is a quick summary.

A Will is legal statement of how you want your property to be dealt with after your death. The property distributed following the instructions in a Will is called the estate. When you make a Will, you are the testator. The person you put in charge of carrying out the wishes in your Will is called your Personal Representative. A Will is only used after you die. The law for Wills is set out in Alberta's Wills and Succession Act.

A Personal Directive (sometimes called a living will or medical directive) is a written, signed, dated and witnessed legal document. It gives someone else the right to make decisions for you about personal, non-financial matters while you are still alive. This includes decisions related to health care, housing and medical treatment. When you make a Personal Directive, you are the Maker and you name another person (your Agent) to make your personal decisions. The law for Personal Directives is set out in Alberta's Personal Directives Act.

An Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) is a written, signed, dated and witnessed legal document. It gives someone else the right to act on your behalf for your financial affairs while you are still alive. When you make an EPA, you are the Donor. You give your authority to another person (your Attorney) to deal with your financial affairs. Your EPA only applies while you are alive and comes to an end when you die. The law for EPA's is set out in Alberta's Powers of Attorney Act.

Chances are also that you have associated these documents with old people. But this is incorrect. In fact, every person over the age of 18 with capacity should have these documents.

Why should you be thinking about making these documents sooner rather than later?

First, you must have mental capacity to make these documents. Mental capacity means:

* the ability to understand the information relevant to making a decision, and

* the ability to appreciate the reasonably foreseeable...

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