Estate Planning...What to Consider When Planning Your Estate

Anne McFarlane – February 2017

There are a whole host of considerations when drafting your estate planning documents. No two estates are identical and most people have specific needs and wants for how their estate will be distributed.  Add in financial concerns and family expectations, and this process can become quite overwhelming for our clients.

While we certainly cannot predict every factor to consider when working with a lawyer to meet your estate needs, the following is a list of common considerations when drafting these documents.

Designated Beneficiaries

Many savings products, such as Registered Retirements Savings Plans (RRSPs) and Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs), as well as your life insurance policy, allow you to name a beneficiary for these funds upon your death. This means these funds will go directly to the beneficiary and will not become part of your estate. Depending on your circumstances, a significant portion of the value of your estate may be accounted for in making these designations. As such, you may wish to structure your will differently, knowing that these assets will already be paid to certain individuals.

Family Heirlooms/Keepsakes

Many families have passed specific items, such as jewelry, furniture, or artwork, through many generations. If you wish to keep these traditions, it is important to be very specific about who will receive what in your will. You may wish to discuss important personal property with your family and other loved ones to decide who is best suited to hold onto these important pieces of family history, and what to do as a back-up plan.

Family Status

As your relationship status changes, so too do your estate planning needs. If you marry or divorce, your existing estate planning documents may be nullified, leaving you without valid documents. If your spouse predeceases you, it may be necessary to reconsider the wording of your estate documents regarding the guardianship provisions for your children and what will happen with their inheritance upon your death. If and when your family status changes, it is a crucial time to reconsider what is in your will and other estate planning documents.

Children and Dependent Adults

Many families have children and dependent adults to consider when mapping out their estate planning. This can include guardianship concerns with young children, adult children in university, family members with disabilities, etc. This becomes especially involved when a dependent adult does not have the necessary mental capacity to manage their financial affairs. These circumstances may require a detailed discussion about when and how these beneficiaries will receive their portion of an eventual inheritance, including establishing a trust for your loved ones.

It is very important to consider what is most important to you and your loved ones when deciding how you structure your estate planning documents. A member of our Wills and Estates Team would be pleased to discuss this with you further and assist you in drafting a will that meets your specific needs and wants.

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