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.