What is Estate Planning
Preparing and updating your Will, and developing a plan for your estate, are two of the most important things you will ever do to protect your family and your legacy.
Approximately one half of Canadian adults do not have a Will. What they do not realize is that, in addition to protecting their families and legacies, estate planning is an essential part of a complete financial plan.
An estate plan sets out how you want your assets distributed after your death, so that your beneficiaries receive the greatest benefit possible. It also helps ensure that your wishes for your estate are carried out.
What would happen if you died without a Will?
In Canada, your estate would be distributed according to the laws of the province you live in. The legislation applies a set formula to divide the estate among your spouse, children and relatives, and the results could be very different from what you really want.
Even if you do have a Will, does it accurately reflect your existing assets, take advantage of current tax planning opportunities, and address the needs of your beneficiaries? Does it protect the financial interests of future generations, minimize taxes, administrative expenses, and delays. Does it provide a smooth and amicable settlement of your affairs and ensure that the long-term management of your estate will help achieve your goals for the future.
Your Estate Planning Considerations
Here are some of the key issues you may need to deal with:
- does your Will and estate plan effectively provide for an orderly disposition of your estate plan to all your intended beneficiaries?
- can gifts made during our lifetime minimize probate fees?
- have you confirmed your intentions regarding jointly owned property such as real estate, bank accounts, and investments so that clear ownership rights are established?
- will establishing a trust for your spouse, children, or a charity help you realize tax advantages and preserve assets such as a business, cottage or family home?
- are your life insurance benefits payable directly to your beneficiaries or to your estate to pay off liabilities or to provide income?
- do you have a plan to reduce or defer taxes that become payable at your death?
- have you appointed a Power of Attorney? If so have you completed both types?
Preparing your Will
Simply put, your Will is the articulation of your estate plan and the only legally recognized document that allows you to choose how your estate is to be distributed. It directs your estate's assets to your beneficiaries or to trusts for their benefit, and names and empowers an Executor to deal with your estate assets.
It seems straightforward enough, but this vital document carries a far deeper significance. It is also a reflection of your life's work and the relationships you have forged. It is cause to look back and to think ahead. Ultimately, it is a source of peace of mind for you and comfort and security for your beneficiaries.
In short preparation of an estate plan details everything to be covered in your Will. It is also advisable for you to keep your Will up-to-date, reflecting your most current assets and wishes, and changes in provincial legislation.