AFTER YOUR DOCUMENTS ARE SIGNED
So now you have a current Will, power of attorney, and health care representation agreement. Have you finished your estate planning? Well that's a good start, but there are some other things you need to do.
- You should give your executor a copy of your estate planning documents and advise your executor where the originals are stored. They should be stored in an obvious place. Your freezer might not be an obvious place to everybody. If you have a safe deposit box, your important papers should be stored there.
- You might want to provide a copy of your Will to your beneficiaries, especially if it is highly unlikely you will ever be changing your Will. Providing a copy of your Will to your potential beneficiaries does not mean, however, that you cannot change your Will.
- If you have a power of attorney, the attorney should be able to access your safety deposit box to retrieve an original power of attorney. It might be a good idea to have your attorney as a signatory on your safe deposit box. Alternatively, keep one original in your home where your attorney would be able to retrieve it when needed.
- You should have a list of your assets and liabilities in a location readily accessible to your executor and your attorney. Many financial institutions can provide an estate planning checklist. You should also include the names of your lawyer, accountant, and other contact people.
- Dispose of old bankbooks, life insurance contracts, and other out-of-date papers so as not to waste the executor's time trying to establish the veracity of estate assets.
- If you have not incorporated a specific list of gifts within your Will, a list will be non-binding upon your executor and the estate. In most cases, if the items are not particularly valuable, it will suffice to have a list of names and items outside your Will. Clearly mark this document as "non-testamentary." Once again, it is a wise idea to circulate the list among potential beneficiaries, especially children, to make sure that they actually want the gift and so that any disputes about who gets what can be cleared up when you are alive. Remember, if you sort out misunderstandings while you are alive, you will be doing your executor and your beneficiaries a big favour. Disputes about seemingly innocuous objects can cause long-lasting family enmity. They can even end up in the courts. The more you communicate while you are alive, the less the likelihood of these types of misunderstandings after you are gone.
- Provide your funeral wishes in writing and give a copy to your executor. Do you wish to be cremated or buried? Do you want to have a service, and if so, what type of service? Check to see if your wishes are practical.
- Consider consolidating your finances. The older and less mobile one becomes, the more difficult it is to deal with four or five financial institutions. There are billions of dollars in unclaimed bank deposits. Undoubtedly a good portion of these funds is money that has never been located by an executor because the executor didn't know of the existence of an account.
- You might also want to consider hiring a financial planner or having one individual in a financial institution who could handle your finances. If this individual knows your whole financial situation, it is easier to provide advice and direction. Financial institution personnel are often the first to notice an impairment of mental capacity. Although it is not a financial planner's job to deal with incapacitated clients, they do have a duty to ensure that your assets are protected and are likely to contact family or a power of attorney, or in significant cases the Public Trustee, if your mental status is declining.
If some or all of these recommendations are instituted, you will have taken steps to make sure that your estate plan is actually fulfilled. You can breathe easier and you will have made your executor's job less stressful.
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