PREPARING FOR YOUR WILL APPOINTMENT
A little preparation will assist you and your lawyer in creating an estate plan. Don't procrastinate in making an appointment, though, because the appointment is the catalyst that gets the process moving. Don't over-prepare or mentally lock yourself into an estate plan of your own making. Don't think you should have all the answers. One of the points of getting legal advice is that your advisor should be able to provide objective feedback to your plans and give you options. Just remember that this is a process and you might have to make some changes along the way.
Appointees & Beneficiaries
There are some obvious personnel appointments that need to be considered in making your estate plan. You need to consider who among your friends, family and other resources such as lawyers, accountants, and trust companies could fill jobs for you. These are usually the executor, alternate executor, attorney and alternate under a power of attorney, and representatives under a health care representation agreement. If you have under-age children, you need to consider the appointment of guardians and alternate guardians. Remember to look carefully, and honestly, at all the intricacies of your family relationships. There are all sorts of ways problems can arise.
Read more about Considering Family Relationships in Your Estate Plan.
You should ask potential executors, attorneys, and / or representatives whether they wish to do the job. You might leave the door open here to change your appointment if your legal advisor suggests someone else. These inquiries could be deferred until after your initial consultation with the lawyer because it is wise to advise people exactly what the duties of the job are. Although it is an honour to be appointed somebody's executor, it is a lot of work and there are significant legal responsibilities that follow from accepting the job.
Read more about Choosing an Executor.
Obviously, in making a Will you have to consider who could be the object of your bequests. You need to consider your family, their needs, and how you want to provide for them. Special needs can be provided for in a Will, often through trusts. When it comes to leaving money to young adults, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
Read more about Too Much of a Good Thing.
Have a list of the names, addresses, and postal codes of potential beneficiaries and appointees. Birthdays and telephone numbers are required for representation agreements.
One thing often not considered is what your assets are and who holds title to these assets. For example, you could hold bank accounts and title to property, both real and personal, as a joint tenant. If you die, the property will automatically go to the other person or persons on title. You can name beneficiaries to life insurance policies, RRSPs, RRIFs, and pensions. These assets pass outside of your estate for probate purposes and will not pass according to the wording in your Will in most circumstances. In order to fully consider your estate plan your lawyer will need to know what these assets are and who receives them. It is a good idea to have a copy of a statement or a life insurance policy that you could take with you to the appointment. If you have a property search of your title, take this with you; it not only establishes how you hold the title but also the correct spelling of your name.
Do you have unusual assets such as patents or copyrights? You might need a special executor to deal with these items. Do you own interests outside the country, for example, half your mother's mobile home in Arizona, or a time-share in Mexico? Foreign assets could entail having different Wills in different jurisdictions.
The magnitude of your estate could be important. If you have a larger estate, other estate planning provisions, such as trusts, might make financial sense, whereas if you have a smaller estate, they might not make sense. If you have a large estate, detailed tax and accounting advice before or during the estate planning process might be necessary.
Although not strictly necessary within your Will, you might want to consider any special provisions regarding your burial, cremation, or funeral service.
If you follow the above suggestions, you will be well prepared for your initial estate planning appointment. You will certainly make the lawyer's job easier and it will be a more satisfying process for you.
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