All things come to an end, like hopefully this Winter will. Winter can be a dark, cold time for people, especially if they don’t prepare properly for the frigid temperatures. Preparation, in the hardest of times, can make a world of difference. That’s why this month David’s feature in Hespeler Village Magazine is all about estate planning. It may be a hard thing to think about, but by planning for it now you’re going to make a dark time a little lighter when it comes to the load you’re leaving for your family to carry.
Estate Planning Checklist
Many Canadians today do not have an estate plan- a road map, if you will, for handling their affairs and finances- for when they die. To put this simply, we believe every Canadian should have an estate plan.
Here’s why: at death an estate plan minimizes taxes and makes sure that others will distribute your assets according to your wishes. During your lifetime, an estate plan can help you build your retirement nest egg and take advantage of tax-savings.
Preparing an estate plan is not an insurmountable challenge. To make things easier, we have outlined below ten steps to help you create your estate plan:
Step 1: Gather General Information
Marital status (your marital status effects estate planning dramatically). Are you, or any of your family, living outside of Ontario? Have you previously taken steps to protect any assets you brought into a relationship? Was anyone born outside of Canada?
Step 2: Gather Any Documents that May be Relevant
Do you have a current, valid will? When was the last time it was reviewed? Do you have up to date documents outlining financial and medical care in case of incapacity, such as power of attorney or a living will? Have these documents been reviewed recently? Are there any agreements that could effect your estate plan, such as a separation agreement or business contract? These are just a few examples.
Step 3: Family Considerations
Have you named a guardian for any minor children? Are any beneficiaries infirm, or do they have special needs or require assistant or government support? Do any of your beneficiairies have poor money management skills? For example, who could not manage a lump sum of money? Do you have any dependents other than your beneficiaries who may require assistance, either physically, mentally, or financially?
Step 4: Assets and Distribution
Have you named beneficiaries for all of your insurance policies, RRSPs, TFSAs, and other registered or non-registered plans? Would your group benefits continue to pay to your beneficiaries after death?
Step 5: Debt/Liabilities
Do you have an up to date list of all debts, balances and monthly fees?
Step 6: Consider Giving it Away Now
Once you have named your beneficiaries or favourite charity, there may be a very good reasons for gifting now.
Step 7: Business Planning (If Applicable)
Is there a success plan for your business, buy-sell agreement in place, funded by insurance? What about shareholder agreements?
Step 8: Other Considerations
Have you thought about funeral plans, organ donations, or storage of key documents?
Step 9: Family Meeting
Once you have reviewed your information, it’s a great idea to hold a family meeting. We have seen too many fights after death because someone “envisioned” it should be a certain way.
Step 10: Hire a Professional
Obviously, 500 words can’t do justice to this important topic, so hire a professional. Did you know there is a designation in Canada for professionals who specialize in estates? It’s called a CEA and all the active advisors in our firm hold this designation. Seek out the right people to help you achieve your goal.
Would you like more information? For your free guide to creating your estate plan email David at firstname.lastname@example.org