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  • Writer's pictureAlisa Aragon-Lloyd

The importance of a will and estate planning

By Alisa Aragon-Lloyd, as seen in "New Home + Condo Guide" magazine, February 9, 2024

As we start a new year, we evaluate where we are now and where we want to go in the future. Some of us may come up with new personal goals that involve reviewing our finances and estate.

A well-prepared estate plan not only safeguards your assets and minimizes taxes and fees, but it also ensures a seamless wealth transfer to the next generation.

If you do not have a will, then after you die, legal complexities and family disputes can occur. Provincial and territorial laws dictate asset distribution in the absence of a will, which can potentially conflict with your own wishes. A detailed and updated will guarantees that your wishes with regards to your asset distribution and executorship are honoured, minimizing the risk of family conflicts and legal battles. Proper estate planning can also streamline probate, saving time and reducing expenses for your beneficiaries.

The main objective of a will is to list your assets and specify their distribution, along with naming an executor, the person responsible for managing your affairs. The following are some key elements to consider when preparing your will:

• A current inventory of your significant assets, including their location if situated outside the province and Canada.

• Determining the individuals who will inherit your assets and the particulars of what each of them will receive.

• Specifying where you want your assets to be distributed aside from your estate to avoid probate fees, for example, insurance policies, RRSP, etc. Also, if any of the beneficiaries are minors, consider establishing trusts, or other provisions.

• It is important to regularly update the list of beneficiaries in your will by considering any recent births, deaths, or marriages in your family.

• Include alternative beneficiaries in case the primary ones predecease you.

• Perhaps consider having a charity or other organizations as one of your beneficiaries.

• If you have children, have you considered who will be their guardian and make decisions on their behalf? Include an alternative guardian in case your primary choice is unable to commit. It is advisable to review your choice of guardians as your children get older.

• Determine and name an executor or co-executor to carry out your wishes after your passing. Life can be unpredictable, and that is why having a back-up plan for your chosen executor is recommended. Unforeseen circumstances, such as an illness or death, may result in your chosen person not being available as your executor. Appointing an alternate can ensure the smooth administration of your estate, preventing delays.

• Another key aspect of estate planning involves naming a power of attorney. This individual is entrusted to make decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated due to injury or illness, whether it is temporary or on a long-term basis. A wills and estate lawyer can assist in preparing this document as part of your estate plan.

• In the digital age, consider digital assets such as social media accounts and cryptocurrencies in your estate planning. Consult legal professionals with knowledge in digital estate planning to ensure these assets are addressed appropriately, adhering to relevant laws.

• Considering estate taxes is important. Collaborate with an accountant to structure your assets and investments efficiently to maximize tax benefits. Neglecting tax implications can add a burden to your beneficiaries, so work with a knowledgeable tax advisor to optimize your estate plan.

• Consider seeking professional help. While a do-it-yourself approach is commendable, professional assistance will bring expertise, tailored solutions, and emotional support for a comprehensive and effective estate plan.

Thinking about these crucial aspects is essential to guarantee the well-being of your estate and family in the event of unforeseen circumstances. Although not a pleasant subject, it is undeniably significant. The more prepared you are, the more secure your loved ones will be.

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