Estate planning is a topic most people dread because they are forced to confront uncomfortable issues such as death, and its consequences. As a result, many people put off completing their estate plan and the issue nags at them for some time. Unfortunately, if you fail to prepare your estate plan it can cause considerable problems for your surviving family members. It can also prevent your estate from being distributed as per your wishes.
Estate planning is among my favourite areas of practice because I deliver peace of mind. My clients have reported feeling peace of mind that their spouse and children will inherit as per their wishes, rather than according to statutory law, eace of mind knowing their families will be able to care for them if they are incapacitated and no longer capable of managing their own affairs and peace of mind knowing young children will be looked after if their parents pass away.
A complete estate plan includes a will, power of attorney, and a representation agreement.
This article will focus on a discussion of the will. A will is a legal document that only becomes effective upon your death. It establishes some of the following:
Who will be the executor—An executor is an individual of your choosing who will carry out the wishes laid out in your will. Executors are bound to carry out the will as written. Choosing the right individual is important as there have been cases where executors attempt to deviate from what is written, it can cause problems for surviving loved ones.
Distribution of Assets—This may seem simple, but asset organization is critical to minimize the amount of probate tax paid by the estate. My clients and I have in-depth discussions about the organization of their assets to minimize probate tax. Many of our clients also have blended families and may require some additional assistance in this area.
Guardianship of minor children—The will is a vehicle which allows you to appoint an individual or individuals who will care for their children in the event they die. If this is not specified in your will, the public guardian and trustee will get involved with respect to placement of the minor children.
Final wishes—The will also describes the manner in which you will be laid to rest, whether it be by burial or cremation. The will may also specify the circumstances for any funeral or wake. The will may also specify whether you wish that your body be used for scientific purposes prior to being laid to rest.
While many wills are simple, they can become more complex. For example, if you hold shares in a private company, and want to avoid probate and probate tax for your loved ones on those shares, you should have two wills, One for your shares and for everything else.
People often ask me if they should do it themselves when it comes to writing a will. In my mind, individuals spend their entire lives building their wealth, as such, they should hire a professional to ensure that wealth is passed to their family members without issue. In my experience, online wills or “do-it-yourself” wills tend to cause confusion and have even on occasion been rejected by the courts.
The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. All information and content are for general information purposes only.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.