End of Life Planning Checklist Canada

There’s a quote that is often used “hope for the best but prepare for the worst”. Hopefully this end of life planning checklist in Canada will prepare you and your loved ones and make this inevitable process less painful. Here’s a getting affairs in order before death checklist for Canada.

No one likes to think about death. No one likes to talk about death. However, death happens eventually to all of us.

This is why an estate planning checklist in Canada is essential.

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End Of Life Planning Checklist Canada

I had a friend whose father died of bladder cancer, and she said that the aftermath of the financial documents, and executing the estate was the a nightmare.

Even though there was some preparation time (for example, he did not die suddenly of a heart attack or stroke), he didn’t have the energy to have the financial documents prepared.

I have another acquaintance who is a father to young kids. His wife suddenly died from a brain aneurysm. She managed all the finances before this happened, and there were some accounts that she just had individually (and not a joint account). It was a very difficult time for him to try and access the money right away so that he could to take care of their kids, it took many months to access the funds. Certainly an added stress that could have been prevented.

Related: Financial Checklist for New Parents in Canada

Closer to home (literally), I had a serious illness requiring hospitalization for almost a week a few years ago. It was quite the stressful experience since we had a 6 month old and a 2 year old at the time. Thankfully there were no residual symptoms but it was a drastic wake up call for me to understand that life can be unpredictable and even though you may be in good health one day, the next day you might not be. Also you realize who your loved ones and true supporters really are when you are not well health-wise.

Here are some end of life checklist items to store in a safe place, sort of like an “in case of death organizer”, so that your loved ones know what to do in the event of your death or in the event that you are unable to make decisions for yourself.

If you’re preparing an end of life checklist for a loved one, perhaps an aging parent if you’re in the sandwich generation of caregiving this list will be helpful for you too.

A Will or Trust

This is probably the most important documentation needed for an end of life planning checklist. And your loved one really needs to know where it is kept otherwise how can they act as an executor.

A Will helps outline who receives what when you die.

In a Will, you can also appoint guardians for your children if they are minor (underage). If you don’t have this outlined, your children might end up living with someone as a guardian who would not be your first choice.

If you don’t have a Will, your assets will be divided according to provincial law, and not your own wishes. It can get messy especially with children (like adult children) fighting over your assets or disagreeing with the distribution.

Unfortunately this is a very common occurence.

If you haven’t had one created yet, you could consider creating a will online (the cost is very reasonable).

Legal Wills is the number one provider of online Wills and Power of Attorney in Canada and have been in the business for over 21 years. They are giving Genymoney.ca readers 15% off.

Life Insurance Documentation

If you have a life insurance policy, you should keep this with the important documents needed at end of life. Include the cash value of the policy, policy number, and other particulars.

If it is an expired term life insurance policy then obviously your loved ones would not get a cash payout, but if the term life insurance is not expired yet or if there is permanent life insurance, your beneficiaries would receive a cash value.

If you don’t have life insurance and are interested in getting one, PolicyMe is a life insurance provider in Canada that operates 100% online. Here’s my review of PolicyMe.

PolicyMe’s policies are issued by Canadian Premier Life Insurance Company, which is one of Canada’s most reputable life insurance companies.  You can get a quote online within 5 minutes and most applications do not require a medical exam.

PolicyMe is probably the easiest place to get unbiased advice online and purchase life insurance online.

Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a personal directive and legal document that you sign to give someone that you trust the authority and ability to act on your behalf for financial matters. Contrary to popular belief, a Power of Attorney does not govern health or personal care matters.

A Power of Attorney allows someone that you appoint to act on your behalf for financial matters and they can access your bank accounts, investment accounts, and help with tax filing for example, in the event that you are unable to.

It is a signed legal document.

This is better than having joint accounts (which a lot of people do, have joint accounts with their adult children) because it is not just banking but for general financial matters. Besides, with the recent bare trust tax reporting, a POA would be less of a hassle come tax time than joint accounts.

Living Will (Representation Agreement in BC)

If you need some help thinking about your values and wishes for advanced care planning in Canada, Planwell guide is a free tool that helps you learn about medical treatments available (and the limitations of these medical treatments) and the decision making involved should you develop a serious illness and be unable to make decisions for yourself. It is good serious illness planning, rather than end of life planning.

Most people think of this as a Living Will, however, it may not be valid everywhere and may not hold up.

In British Columbia, they have something called an Enduring Power of Attorney, or Representation Agreement (Representation Agreement Section 7 or Representation Agreement Section 9) which can designate someone you trust to make health care decisions for you.

Representation Agreement 7 has more ‘powers’ than a Rep 9 Agreement, as the Representation 7 Agreement includes routine management of financial affairs.

More information can be found on Nidus, a non-profit Personal Planning and Resource Centre Directory.

Do Not Resuscitate Orders

If your values are to be comfortable at the end of life and allow a natural death, versus being connected to tubes or machines in the Intensive Care Unit in the hospital, you should have a “Do Not Resuscitate” or “No Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation” order.

It is a question of quantity versus quality of life that you will have to ask yourself.

Usually this form is kept somewhere accessible (like on the fridge) in case paramedics are called to the home. If paramedics are called to the home and you don’t have this form accessible (in British Columbia, at least) the paramedics will perform CPR. If that is not something you clearly want you should get a DNR.

This is form is filled out and signed by your health care provider and also signed by yourself.

Also most importantly, you should tell your loved ones what your resuscitation wishes are so that they know what you would like in the event you are not able to decide for yourself.

If you would rather not your family (e.g. spouse, adult child, etc.) decide for you or you do not have a spouse or adult child, you could appoint a substitute decision maker to act on your behalf in the event you are not able to make decisions about your health. By law in British Columbia, there is a hierarchy of who is your temporary substitute decision maker (first it is spouse, then it is adult child etc.) if you do not agree with this you should appoint an SDM instead.

Financial Documents

Important financial documents to include with an end of life planning checklist would be a list of:

This includes real estate property documents, such as documents for the primary residence (the deed of the home) or rental properties.

This financial documents list is definitely not exhaustive.

Identification Documents

Have a list of where these items are stored and the proper identification numbers of each:

  • Driver’s license
  • Passport
  • Social Insurance Numbers
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Birth Certificate


In this day and age, people have online passwords to everything. For example, email and social media need passwords.

Also, knowing the online passwords for important monthly bills such as:

In addition, you should include passwords for online banking accounts, online credit card accounts, login for your home insurance or investment accounts, if applicable.

Advanced Planning Summary

In summary, you should organize in a safe place your Will, Power of Attorney, Living Will (or Representation Agreement if you live in BC), life Insurance documentation, copies of financial documents, copies of property documents, copies or numbers of identification documents, and online passwords and let your loved one know where you are keeping these (ideally in one spot).

Finally, if you have a funeral home selected and the arrangements already paid for, you should include the documentation and make it easily accessible.

The funeral home (usually the funeral director) will give the bereaved the death certificate once they have the medical certificate of death completed by the health care professional within 48 hours of death.

The death certificate is needed to settle the estate, to file a death benefit claim for life insurance, among other things.

Another way to get the death certificate is through Vital Statistics Agency or a Service BC counter (if you live in British Columbia).

Getting Affairs in Order Before Death Checklist Canada

I made this preparing for end of life checklist because this is something that I have been meaning to do especially now that we have young children.

There’s usually an excuse ‘oh there’s no time’ or ‘we don’t need to think about this now’ but life throws you unexpected curve balls sometimes and being prepared will help make that curve ball less painful to deal with.

It will be difficult enough to grieve the loss of a loved one but scrambling for financial documents or other documents would complicate the grief further.

Hopefully you found this preparing for death checklist in Canada useful.

You may also be interested in:

Have you had an unfortunate experience dealing with the death of a loved one and their estate?

Is there anything else you would add to this End of Life Planning Checklist?

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