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The Basics of Estate Planning: Personal Directives (Part 3 of 4)

Posted 7/17/2016

The third document that normally forms part of a standard estate planning package is a Personal Directive. Let’s take a look at some basic information about Personal Directives and why they are important.

What is a Personal Directive?

A Personal Directive is a written, signed, dated, and witnessed document that gives someone else the authority to deal with your personal, non-financial matters (such as medical care) while you are still alive. It is a written instruction given to another person, usually a spouse or close family member, advising them of the extent of medical care you wish if you become mentally incapable of making the decisions for yourself. Also, this document can give the power to make decisions regarding your care, where you live, and what activities you should be involved in should you lose the capacity to make these decisions for yourself.

Why should you prepare a Personal Directive?

Your family and health care professionals could be in a difficult position not knowing your wishes and desires regarding your medical care and personal decisions. If you did not prepare a Personal Directive and you were hospitalized for a serious illness or condition which resulted in you losing your mental capacity for a period of time, the medical staff would have concerns about receiving instructions about your medical care from your close family members. Health care professionals, firstly, would not have the assurance that your loved ones have the legal authority to provide instructions, and secondly, they have no assurance what your instructions would have been.

Also, if you do not sign a Personal Directive and you require long term care when you lose your mental capacity, your family will have no legal authority to decide where you live and will not have the authority to deal with the health care professionals unless a Court Order is obtained appointing someone as your Guardian. This Order can be obtained, but it involves an expense for legal fees and it may have to be renewed every few years.

Who should prepare your Personal Directive?

It is wise to have a lawyer draft your Personal Directive. A lawyer can assist you to properly specify the medical care that you want. For example, do you want to be resuscitated if the chances of your full recovery are minimal? The clauses placed in the Personal Directive are important since you want your wishes carried out. These clauses should be carefully drafted and a lawyer can assist you with this. There are standard forms available from stationary stores which can be legally binding if they are properly witnessed and signed by you when you have the mental capacity. However, a Personal Directive can be an important document in your estate planning and it should be carefully drafted.


I recommend that everyone have a properly drafted and executed Personal Directive in place. For similar reasons as with an Enduring Power of Attorney, a Personal Directive ensures that your wishes regarding your medical care and other personal decisions are clearly in writing. Having this document in place in advance will also make it easier on your family members.

As an aside (although still pertaining to estate planning), I wanted to talk a little bit about organ/tissue donation. There are clauses that can be inserted into your estate planning documents specifying organ/tissue donation. However, there are times when it is too late for your organs/tissues to be donated by the time the document is found and relied upon. For those of you who wish to donate your organs/tissues, it is important that you talk to your family and friends confirming your intention to donate some or all of your organs and/or tissues. If you wish to donate some or all of your organs/tissues, you should register on the Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry at or at any Registry office.

Now that we’ve reviewed the basics of all 3 documents in a standard estate planning package, I’m hoping that you all see the importance of each and every one of the documents. If you do not have these documents in place, I urge you to make the necessary arrangements and have these documents done up.

Kinetic Legal Services can help you prepare the estate planning documents needed in your particular situation. Stay tuned for my next blog post which will be the final part in The Basics of Estate Planning series. I will be discussing the process involved in preparing the estate planning documents, and what you can expect if you hire Kinetic Legal Services to prepare your documents.

Yours truly,

Crystal Schening