Is there anything easier to delay than creating your estate plan? Your estate plan is even easier to put off than fixing your fence. You do not wake up, look out the window and see your estate plan is flaking or falling apart. When you go outside your neighbours don’t point at your estate plan and ask you when you are going to get off your butt and work on it. Your estate plan is invisible, easy to avoid, and then forget.
I think procrastinating on your estate plan arises because the task looks too overwhelming. You may not know where to start. The goal of this article is to help break down the steps of estate planning into “chewable chunks”. There are 6 steps to complete your estate plan. In this article, I review the first 3 steps. Check out next month’s column for the last 3 steps.
A lawyer needs to know your family and financial picture to ensure your estate planning goals are met.
A lawyer will review with you the assets which form your estate. You can make a list everything you own (and owe) ahead of time. Keep in mind some assets are registered in joint names (like your house) or have a named beneficiary (like an RRSP, TFSA or life insurance) and will transfer outside of your estate or will. A lawyer will want to address all your assets in your estate plan.
You also need to identify family members you have an obligation to provide through your estate, for example, your spouse and young children. There may also be people or charities that you have an interest to provide through your estate.
Our firm provides to our clients a form we fondly call “Getting To Know You” which helps us understand the whole family/financial picture. A checklist can be completed at home and brought in when you meet with your lawyer.
The lawyer meeting involves a review of your family and financial picture from Step 1, to confirm who will be your decision makers, and who benefits from your estate.
Your estate plan will name the people who will make decisions for you on your death or mental incapacity. Each of the Will, Enduring Power of Attorney and Personal Directive will typically name 2 people who will make decisions for you. An example would be naming your spouse as an Executor, followed by an adult child or another person. People with multiple children may consider including all of them as decision makers. This can be done, but keep in mind it can also make administration of an estate more complicated due to the number of people involved.
…to be continued next month.