It's Your Money  

Building your estate planning dream team

Estate planning

If you’ve never given much thought to your estate and how you want your possessions to be shared with family and loved ones, know that you’re not alone.

It’s important to enlist the help of others and assemble the right people on your estate planning team to get started. So who should be on the team and what are their jobs?

Family first

If at all possible, your family needs to know what you want and should be part of these discussions. Be clear about your wishes so that no one is in the dark about how you want to share your assets, and who to contact. By taking this proactive approach, and being specific about what you want, you can reduce family stress at a difficult time.

If your family and loved ones are the beneficiaries of your estate, then you should consider including them early in the process, since you may learn things you didn’t know about their hopes and expectations. Maybe they don’t want some of your prize possessions as much as you think they do. Now is the time to set expectations and ensure your wishes are clear and your legacy lives on in the way you want.

The executor

Your executor is the person with the legal authority to represent your estate and one of the most important people on the team when it comes to executing your will and wishes.

There are two common ways of choosing an executor:

Option 1—You choose a family member or friend who you feel has the knowledge and experience needed to represent you at the bank, in legal matters, and likely with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). If such a qualified individual doesn’t come to mind, or if you are concerned that selecting one person may alienate another, consider Option 2.

Option 2—You appoint a trust company to execute your estate plan. They will charge a fee for the service, but it may be worth every dollar if it mitigates stress and avoids in-fighting with family members. They can help to ward off potential family feuds by acting only on your wishes with a degree of separation.

If you do go with Option 1, it’s important that you speak to the person that you’ve chosen to ensure they want the position and are capable of managing all the elements. This person needs to be trustworthy, responsible, willing to do the work (it can be a lot), impartial and ideally a Canadian resident.

Your financial planner

Your certified financial planner (CFP) professional knows how to prepare an estate plan, what questions to ask, and can even lead the discussion with your family. They are also likely to know the details of your net worth and where to locate all of your assets and insurance policies. This will make it easier for the team, especially your executor.

Through this planning process, it may be that you learn your finances have a level of complexity that requires additional expertise. If so, your CFP professional can access a team of specialists including a tax expert, a lawyer, and even an expert in corporate succession planning. Working together, your team can help you plan ahead to reduce taxes and stress.

The time is now

The best way to build your team is to start now, find out what others are thinking, and work with your financial professionals to identify the people that you need to make sure your legacy will live on exactly as you have planned.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Brett Millard is vice-president and a member of the executive leadership team at FP Canada, the national professional body for the financial planning industry. A not-for-profit organization, FP Canada works in the public interest to foster better financial health for all Canadians by leading the advancement of professional financial planning in Canada. 

He has worked in the financial advice industry for more than 15 years and is designated as a chartered investment manager (CIM) and is a certified financial planner (CFP).

He has written a weekly financial planning column since 2012 and provides his readers with easy to understand explanations of the complex financial challenges they face in every stage of life. Enhancing the financial literacy of Canadian consumers is a top priority for Brett and his ongoing efforts as a finance writer focus on that initiative. 

Please let Brett know if you have any topics you’d like him to cover in future columns ,or if you’d like a referral to a qualified CFP professional in your area, by emailing him at [email protected].


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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