Nobody likes to think about death – especially not in the middle of a global pandemic. But getting started on an estate plan can help minimize headaches for your family in the long run. You may be young, or you may be old, but you are never too young to be prepared.
There are many things to consider when doing your estate planning, and a good deal will depend on how complex your situation is. Having a trusted estate lawyer to help guide you through the process can make it that much easier.
In this blog post, we’ll break down some of the more general considerations that should factor into your estate planning process.
Do You Have a Will?
You should – and here are some of the reasons why! Without a will, you are setting your beneficiaries up for a more onerous and usually expensive process after you pass. Don’t put unnecessary burdens onto your grieving loved ones.
What Are You Worth?
Sorting out an estate means figuring out who gets what, so it helps if you know what you’ve got. Preparing a list of all your assets and liabilities is a good place to start.
Two kinds of assets warrant special mention. First, assets held in joint ownership, where full ownership simply passes to the surviving party or parties, can help you keep probate fees to a minimum and may be worth considering in some circumstances. Second, any assets or property that are held in the United States will be impacted by US law since the US imposes a tax on estates.
Next comes the “who”. Many of the items on your list, such as life insurance policies, registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs), or other investments, will already have listed beneficiaries. For the rest, you should consider who you would like to receive what, especially when it comes to assets that have value beyond their dollar figures, such as a family cottage held for generations or treasured family heirlooms. This is particularly important since these types of assets are often the ones that give rise to disputes when settling an estate.
Who Will Be in Charge?
Someone needs to be in charge of your estate after you are gone. Think about who you want to be the chief decision-maker – usually a spouse, adult child, or other trusted relative or close friend. Make sure you have spoken to them first, so they know of your intention to appoint them and are not blindsided by it someday in the distant future! Special consideration should also be paid to who would be responsible for any minor children.
In addition to thinking about who you want to be in charge after you are gone, you should also give thought to who you might want to be empowered to make decisions on your behalf should you end up in a situation where you are still alive but incapable of making decisions for yourself (for example, after a severe brain injury or debilitation). You should only consider giving such powers to someone that you trust completely, as once appointed under the conditions you set, they will be able to act as your proxy.
Trust in Trusts?
Speaking of trust, a legal vehicle known as a trust is one option available to help provide for your beneficiaries after you pass. These can take different forms and can even be established while you are alive (known as an inter vivos trust) or after you pass (known as a testamentary trust). Trusts are particularly useful in the case of minor children or other situations where simply handing over large sums of money is less optimal than ensuring a steady stream of support over time.
Death and Taxes
When it comes to structuring your assets, life insurance proceeds, and any trusts, tax considerations can be a big factor. It’s a good idea to consult with a tax professional, so you have a clear picture of the impact of tax rules on your assets after you pass.
The Big Goodbye
When you pass, the last thing any of your loved ones will want to have to worry about will be big logistical questions. While some organizing on the part of your family is inevitable (unless you are keen to pen your own obituary, as some have!), you can still minimize the amount of work your family will have to do. You should do as much advance planning as possible for your funeral and your final resting place and decide whether you wish to be buried or cremated. It is also important to set aside funds specifically for these purposes.
Don’t Do It Alone
It’s unfortunate, but it does happen: sometimes family squabbles erupt over how an estate is being divided up. In those cases, it is even more important that the documents laying out your wishes – especially your will – are properly executed so that they can withstand challenges. An experienced estate lawyer can also ensure your decisions best align with the changes made to Ontario’s Succession Law Reform Act and Substitute Decisions Act in 2021.
Contact Tierney Stauffer LLP in Ottawa, North Bay, and Eastern Ontario for Comprehensive Estate Planning
There have been several changes to the administration of estates proposed or implemented this year. It can be difficult for those tasked with probating an estate to know how to proceed. The knowledgeable will and estate lawyers at Tierney Stauffer LLP can help you navigate these new rules and help simplify the process by taking on much of the work for you.
We take a client-focused approach to our work, providing innovative guidance through the estate planning and administration processes. Our team also represents clients in estate litigation when disputes arise. We have extensive experience and will work to secure the results our clients need to move forward. Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to set up a consultation with a member of our team.