Aging is inevitable and as you get older, the desire to leave a legacy to your kids grows stronger. You’ve done well in life, your estate will be substantial, and you want to do everything you can to ensure it will be insulated from undue taxation and distributed exactly as you wish, Yet you don’t have an up-to-date will or, perhaps, you don’t have a will at all.
You’re far from alone. Surveys have found that approximately 50 per cent of Canadians do not have a will and nearly 75 per cent do not have an up-to-date will. There are a lot of reasons why that is so – ranging from not being ready to make vital life decisions to trying to avoid family issues. But a will is the absolutely necessary foundation of any estate plan. It designates how your estate should be distributed in ways that will protect your family and reduce the taxes levied against your estate. (If you die without a will, (intestate) a court will decide how to distribute your estate among your heirs.)
So, the place to start is by talking with your family to find out what they expect and to explain to them what your wishes are. Once you’re all on the same page and you know how you want to your will to be structured, here are some other estate planning considerations:
• Have a living will that provides direction for your care in the event of catastrophic illness or disability.
• Name an executor (sometimes called a Personal Representative or liquidator in Québec) who will settle your estate according to your documented wishes.
• Name a guardian for minor children or other dependants.
• Set aside liquid assets to pay for taxes, debts, the costs of settling your estate and/or other obligations.
• Consider establishing a trust, which could transfer your assets more cost effectively by reducing taxes and probate fees.
• Clearly identify your beneficiaries for all your registered investments and insurance policies.
• Provide a comprehensive list of financial assets including your bank accounts and locations, insurance policies and amounts, investment accounts, and other fi nancial information.
• Revise your will and estate plan following any major life event such as a marriage or divorce, birth of a child or grandchild, death of a spouse or heir, property purchase or sale, change of residence, province or country, or retirement.
When you have a will and estate plan in place, you’ll avoid difficulties and costs later – and you’ll have peace of mind. Talk to your lawyer and accountant along with your professional advisor who can keep everybody on track with your wishes for your legacy.
This column, written and published by Investors Group Financial Services Inc. and Investors Group Securities Inc. presents general information only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell any investments. Contact your own advisor for specific advice. For more information on this topic, contact your Investors Group Consultant.