Estate Planning is the process of how your assets and wealth will be distributed after you pass away. Since most people do not look forward to considering their passing, estate planning is often a neglected area of financial planning. Many people believe estate planning is something to consider when they are ill or approaching end of life, yet in reality much of estate planning should be done throughout your life. However, when considering your assets, there are only three options: family, charity & taxes.
We help clients maximize their estate to family and charity, while minimizing the amount of taxes paid to the government. One important item to note is we attribute Estate Planning to a much larger concept we refer to as Legacy Planning. In addition to passing on wealth, Legacy Planning involves the strategic transfer of family core values, knowledge & wisdom to the next generation and in turn the generations after them.
WHAT ARE THE FOUR IMPORTANT ESTATE PLANNING FACTORS?
1) Complexity of your estate. The scope of the estate will often determine how simple or complicated the estate plan will need to be. Do you own multiple businesses with many assets, liabilities or trusts? Do you have a complex family dynamic with many people involved? These factors as well as many more, add complexity to your estate planning. The more complex your estate planning needs, the more important it is to have conversations to develop a well-defined plan.
2) Stage in life. Do you have a young or a special needs family member who is dependent on you? Do you have elderly parents relying on your support? In those instances, your dependents will be a primary consideration in your planning. If you have adult children or grandkids, they could be another consideration when planning for your estate.
3) Personal goals. Are you creating an estate plan to provide for surviving children, grandchildren or other relatives? Do you want to ensure a partner or a family’s standard of living is sustainable after your passing? It’s essential to consider what is most important to you as you have conversations to create your estate plan.
4) Who do you trust? This includes choosing a trusted person or persons to act on your behalf should you become incapacitated while still alive, also known as a power of attorney. This also includes having a reliable and capable executor to carry out your instructions after death.
ESTATE PLANNING CHECKLIST
Like any other plan, creating an estate plan may seem intimidating. Let us help you get started with an estate planning checklist.
- Create a list of all your assets (such as your house or other investments). Keep in mind that your will covers your entire estate i.e., everything you own. This list of assets will help you make decisions on whether you want to leave certain items to specific people or liquidate the items for cash in your estate.
- Create a list of your liabilities (such as a mortgage or loans). This will help your executor know which debts need to be paid from your estate.
- Ensure that you have named beneficiaries for your insurance and investments such as your TFSAs, RRSPs, etc. If there is a named beneficiary on a policy/account, it will go directly to that person rather than going through your estate. This can help to reduce taxes, and will allow payments to be made to beneficiaries much faster. Please ensure your will does not contradict your beneficiary designations.
- Record all important estate planning information (life insurance policies, employer group policies, etc.) This will make it much easier for your executor(s) to manage your estate distribution.
- Make note of any disability income insurance available for your care if needed. Also be sure to thoroughly document your desires in case you are incapacitated or unable to make decisions.
KEEPING YOUR ESTATE PLAN UPDATED
Regardless of how an estate plan is created – by an individual or with professional guidance – it’s important to revisit the plan every few years or when there's a significant life change. That will ensure your estate plan keeps pace with your changing and best reflects your desires at every stage in life.