PREPARING FOR YOUR
ESTATE PLANNING APPOINTMENT
If you have never had a Will, power of attorney, or health care representation agreement, now is the time to make an appointment with a lawyer to get the job done. If you make the appointment, you are half way there.
Now you can sit back and think about what you want in your plan. But don't overthink the planning aspects. It is the lawyer's job to tell you what he or she thinks is best for your particular situation. Often people put off doing a Will because they can't figure out who would be an appropriate executor or what the stepchildren should receive. Just remember, it's not up to you to figure out everything on your own. That is why you go to an experienced professional. Here are some things to think about before your appointment.
- If you want to make the process a little easier for you and your advisor, figure out what your assets are. This may sound easy, but what about the mobile home you own in Arizona, or the time-share, or the mineral rights in Saskatchewan?
You also need to figure out the type of ownership interests you have. Is there a right of survivorship already attached to that ownership interest? If there is a right of survivorship, you cannot Will the property to someone else without changing the type of ownership interest you have in the property.
- Do you have any beneficiary designations on annuities, RRSPs, RRIFs, or life insurance? If so, these assets will pass outside of your estate, meaning your Will does not affect who receives these assets. But these beneficiaries must tie in with what you have in your Will so there is a coordinated estate plan.
Read more about Registered Investments and Your Estate Plan.
- It is a wise idea to have a rough idea of the taxes payable on your estate when you die. This may not be your problem; clearly you won't be around to pay the tax. But if you want your family to enjoy the cottage without Stephen Harper and Gordon Campbell sunning themselves on the back deck, you need to know the tax bill.
- You need to think about who would be an appropriate executor, attorney, and substitute health care decision-maker, as well as alternates. The primary ingredient for these positions is that the person appointed must be somebody that you trust to properly carry out the duties. Your lawyer can explain to you these duties and the various options, so you might not want to make a final decision until you have talked to him or her.
If you don't have a piece of the puzzle, for example, you don't have a guardian for under-aged children, you should still have a Will. We have seen people put off having documents done until they had all the people in place, only to have something happen in the meantime. It is important to remember that most estate planning documents are revocable, so you can make an intermediate choice and then down the road make an addition or substitution.
If you already have a Will, you might want to review the document and make sure it is appropriate for your current situation. If you haven't had a new Will in the last ten years, it is wise to review the contents with a lawyer to make sure it meets your current requirements and any changes in the law. Ten years ago many people didn't have powers of attorney, and living Wills were not covered by specific legislation. If you have moved to British Columbia, you need to review your documents to comply with the law in British Columbia.
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