Top 10 Estate Planning Tips

Protecting Your Wealth
June 17, 2015
Top 10 Estate Planning Tips Continued
August 13, 2015
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Top 10 Estate Planning Tips

I have been helping families in Medicine Hat and area with their estate plans for more than 35 years. During this time I have observed all estate plans have common goals that are important to all clients, no matter the size of the estate or the assets in the estate.

The first 5 tips from my Top 10 List are in this article. Check out next month’s column for the second 5 tips from my Top 10 List.

1. Make a Plan

The saying Plans don’t fail people. People fail to plan. is true. A death in a family often causes emotional upheaval and family discord that is caused by failing to think about and make an estate plan that works for the family. Effective estate plans take into account the unique family dynamics each family has. Is there a child who has special needs to consider? If so, does a trust need to be set up for this child? Who will administer the trust (trustee)? Have you asked your trustee if they will take on this role of trustee?

2. Choose a Personal Representative (PR)

The PR collects and protects estate assets and then distributes them according to the instructions in your will. It is important to speak with the person you choose as your PR to confirm they will take on this responsibility. If the estate administration involves carrying on or liquidation of a business, it is important your PR has the business acumen and financial background needed and the time to complete what may be a lengthy estate administration.

Where your PR lives is also important. Does your PR live close enough to effectively administer your estate? A PR who lives outside Alberta may be required to post a bond as security for their administration of your estate. A PR who lives outside of Canada will create adverse tax consequences as your estate will then be treated as a non-resident of Canada.

3. Write a Personal Possessions Letter

In many estates family members disagree about personal items that don’t have a lot of market value and at the same time have sentimental value. Your PR and your family members will appreciate your letter setting out your instructions about how you want to distribute these items. The letter is not as binding on your PR as if it was included in your will. At the same time, if you change your mind (which happens with personal possessions) it is easier to change your letter than to change your will. Your family may not agree with your suggested distribution of these items and at the same time they will know you thought about it.

4. Choose a Guardian for Your Minor Children

Our children are our most important priority. Who do you want to make the decisions about what is best for your children if are not making those decisions? Your guardian doesn’t have to have your children live with them. It will be up to your guardian(s) to make decisions about where your children will live and other decisions about and for your children, after your death. As with choosing your PR, speak with your proposed guardian to confirm they agree to act.

5. Write a Letter to Your Guardian

Your guardian and your children will appreciate this letter. This letter sets out your wishes for and about your children. You can easily change your letter from time to time as your children’s circumstances and needs change. This letter is not legally binding on your guardian, and at the same time, experience says guardians appreciate knowing what you think and wish. The law requires your guardian to make decisions about your children that take into account your children’s circumstances when the guardian has to act.

Watch for Tips 6 – 10 next month!

Malcolm Pritchard
Malcolm Pritchard helps you navigate the turning points of life. He is a partner with Pritchard & Co. Law Firm, LLP. Contact Malcolm at 403-527-4411 or at