Category: Wills & Estates

Who Needs an Estate Plan?

The topic of estate planning usually conjures up thoughts of wealthy people with complicated situations but even with a modest income, if you own any kind of property, for example, a house, bank account, RRSP’s, life insurance, then you have an estate, and as a result, you should also have a plan.

We recommend that every person keep a record of all your assets, that you have your property titled correctly, and that you have the beneficiary arrangements set up properly, especially life insurance through work which many times gets overlooked.

How your property should be titled depends on your marital situation, but typically married couples want to have property titled joint with right of survivorship.  Although sometimes you can’t avoid probate, life insurance and other registered products (eg. RRSP’s) with beneficiary designations will pass outside the estate by contract. If property is titled in just your name, it will have to go through probate. 

Regardless of the value of your estate, every person should have the following important documents: (1) a Will is the first document that you need and it is your opportunity to designate who gets your property; (2) a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property gives someone the right to make financial decisions for you if you are incapacitated or from a convenience perspective, for example, you could be traveling and your spouse needs to make a financial transaction or decision, with a power of attorney for property he or she will be able to do that; (3) a Power of Attorney for Care gives someone the authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.

We recommend that all of your important documents, including Will and Powers of Attorney, be kept in one place, in a binder or envelope, so that if there is an emergency such as a fire, you know where it is and can grab it and run out the door.  It is also a good idea to keep such important documents in a fireproof safe at home or a bank security box.

9 Reasons to Have a Will

While the reason for preparing a Will may vary from person to person, here are 9 reasons to have a Will in place.
1.    A Will is an opportunity for you to choose what happens to your money when you pass away.  When you pass away intestate or without a Will, you lose that opportunity, and your estate is distributed to your next of kin as set out in the Ontario Succession Law Reform Act. Therefore, you risk your estate being distributed in a manner you would not agree with.
2.    A Will is an opportunity for you to choose who will administer your estate.  Without a Will, a court will appoint your Executor, and an Executor has the biggest role in the distribution of your estate.
3.    A Will is an opportunity for you to choose who will take care of your children.  Absent a Will, a court will appoint a family member or provincially-appointed Guardian for your minor children.
4.    Save time and money.  Having a Will makes administering your estate much easier and less expensive.
5.    Minimize taxes.  Proper Will planning can minimize income tax and estate administration tax/probate fees, which increases the value of your estate for your beneficiaries to enjoy.
6.    Charitable donations.  Charitable gifts in your Will allows your legacy to live on, reflects your personal values and interests, and has tax benefits to boot.
7.    Disinherit individuals who would otherwise inherit.  Absent a Will, your estate may end-up in the wrong hands or may pass to an unintended beneficiary, such as an estranged family member.
8.    Major life events.  Any significant change in your life circumstances, such as a family birth, adoption, death, divorce or separation, may necessitate making or changing your Will. 
9.    Because tomorrow is not promised.  Sometimes the realization that a Will is necessary comes too late such as when an unexpected death or disability occurs. Adults can make or change their Will at any time as long as there is the required mental capacity.

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