DEALING WITH DEATH

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When you are facing the death of a loved one, you are not likely thinking about the executor of the estate. First, you may be dealing with tremendous grief and confusion about the changes ahead.

If you are in crisis, call the BC Bereavement helpline:
604-738-9950 or (toll-free) 1-877-779-2223

There are many resources to help you cope, and to help you recover by moving forward through your grief.

There are counsellors who help people deal with grief. You may be more comfortable talking with a spiritual advisor or your family doctor, who might recommend other resources. Remember that there is no shame in reaching out for help to deal with death, and there are people who can help.

Death and Dying

The famous psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross[1] identified 5 stages of grief in On Death and Dying.[2] These stages may apply to someone who is dying, or they may apply to a person who is dealing with the death of a loved one.

Denial refusing to accept death, and that it means some changes are final.

Anger blaming people, including yourself, for letting this happen.
Bargaining searching for a way to avoid death or ease pain, perhaps by promising to make a commitment or sacrifice.
Depression giving up hope that life will ever be enjoyable again.

Acceptance after recognizing that death brings changes that cannot be reversed, finding reconciliation and eventually peace as it all becomes easier to bear.

Final Estate Planning

Despite your grief, if you can talk with a loved one who may be nearing death about final planning, you might be able to give the loved one peace, and save the family distress and needless expense later.

There may be matters that will arise after death that the will-maker can help with now. For example, is there a will? If so, where is it? Does it still reflect the will-maker’s wishes? If there is no will, or if it is outdated, take this opportunity to encourage your loved one to make a current will.

Also, what are the will-maker’s wishes about organ or tissue donation, or funeral planning?

There may be matters that need to be resolved in the immediate future.

For example, is the will-maker in a position to make decisions about powers of attorney?[3] Does the will-maker want to make a living will giving advance directives for health care, or make an agreement appointing a representative?

The People’s Law School has developed an online booklet Powers of Attorney[4].

PowersofAttorney.png

Another of their online booklets, When I’m 64: Controlling Your Affairs, is part of a “When I’m 64” series that includes booklets on benefits and services.[5] This booklet discusses decision-making and powers of attorney, representation agreements, wills, care agreements, and funeral arrangements. These online resources from the People’s Law School also contain videos on different types of powers of attorney.

WhenIm64.png

The provincial Ministry of Health publication My Voice: Expressing My Wishes for Future Health Care Treatment is available online.[6] It describes making a living will or advance plan for health care, which may include a representation agreement.

There may be an opportunity to identify the will-maker’s current assets and determine whether they could be owned in a more tax-effective way, in anticipation of the will-maker’s passing.

Certainly if the will-maker’s family includes former spouses where there may not have been a formal divorce or separation agreement, or family members who are not provided for in the will, it would be helpful to find out the will-maker’s wishes to avoid costly disputes later.

Having these difficult conversations can hopefully ease the will-maker’s mind, knowing that these affairs are in good order and the executor has all the information to manage things smoothly to carry out the will-maker’s wishes.

Resources

Books

  • Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Death and Dying. 1969.
  • Kushner, Harold. When Bad Things Happen to Good People. 1978.
  • Wylie, Betty Jane. Beginnings: A Book for Widows. 1985.
  • Wylie, Betty Jane. Life’s Losses: Living Through Grief, Bereavement and Sudden Change. 1996.

Online and Phone Resources

  • The BC Bereavement Helpline [7] offers telephone and online support, brochures, and maintains a resource directory with listings to bereavement support services throughout the province.
  • The British Columbia Funeral Association booklet, “Yours, Mine and Our Children’s Grief” is available free by calling the British Columbia Funeral Association at 1-800-665-3899.
  • The BC Funeral Association website also offers other material, such as Understanding Grief[8] and videos on aspects of grief.

TheJourney.png Grief.png

Legislation

  • Adult Guardianship Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 6
  • Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act, S.B.C. 2004, c. 35
  • Family Law Act,[13] S.B.C. 2011, c. 25
  • Health Care (Consent) and Care Facility (Admission) Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 181
  • Human Tissue Gift Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 211
  • Patients Property Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 349
  • Power of Attorney Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 370
  • Public Guardian and Trustee Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 383
  • Representation Agreement Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 405
  • Trustee Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 464
  • Wills, Estates and Succession Act,[14] S.B.C. 2009, c. 13 (“WESA”)

Regulations and Forms

References

  1. Swiss-born psychiatrist (1926-2004) who taught at the University of Chicago, developing sometimes controversial seminars on dealing with terminal illness.
  2. On Death and Dying was first published in 1969.
  3. [1] www.publiclegaled.bc.ca
  4. [2] www.publiclegaled.bc.ca
  5. [3] www.publiclegaled.bc.ca
  6. [4] www.publiclegaled.bc.ca
  7. [5] www.bcbereavementhelpline.com
  8. [6] www.bcfunerals.com
  9. [7] www.health.gov.bc.ca
  10. [8] wiki.clicklaw.bc.ca
  11. [9] www.publiclegaled.bc.ca
  12. [10] Grief and Healing
  13. [11] canlii.ca
  14. [12]canlii.ca
  15. [13] canlii.ca
  16. [14] www.ag.gov.bc.ca