Did you know that making a Will is one of the most important things you will ever do? Most people understand that without being told. So why is it that so many people neglect taking care of this? Often people simply feel overwhelmed. They believe it will take too much time, and will be too difficult. While it might seem a little overwhelming, it really is a simple and straight-forward process.
The following is a list of things you will need to think about to prepare your Will and powers of attorney –
- Determine what assets you have.
- Determine what debts you have.
- Understand the ownership structure of your assets i.e. are the assets jointly held vs. sole ownership.
- Determine if there any investments that can appoint designated beneficiaries to minimize probate fees.
- Determine if any steps can be taken to minimize taxes.
- Understand your family structure, and potential issues and conflicts that may arise.
- Determine who you want to appoint as Executor or Executrix to manage the business of your estate.
- Determine who you want to appoint as guardian of your minor children.
- Determine how you will meet obligations the law imposes for support of dependents.
- Determine if there are any specific gifts you would like to go to specific people.
- Determine if there are any people with special needs who require special consideration.
- Determine if there are any charities you wish to give gifts to taking advantage of tax savings available.
- Determine how you wish to distribute your property.
- Determine who you would like to make decisions on your behalf before you pass away in the event that you become incapable of making decisions yourself.
That is it. Still overwhelmed? Don’t fret you are not alone. This is the reason why many people will hire a law firm to assist in the drafting of the document and guiding them through the entire process.
If you decide to use a law firm to assist with your Will, the law firm should be providing you with a step by step questionnaire that will assist in making sure that your situation is fully understood, and the best possible advice is being given. The questionnaire should gather all of the information in a systematic way that makes it as simple for you as possible.
This also provides you with a very important opportunity for you to organize your assets, in a way that will be understandable to your Executor, who will need to be able to make sense of your financial situation without having you around to explain it.
When I was called to the bar in 1995, the very first thing that I did as a new lawyer was assist with the administration of an estate of an older gentleman, who was quite wealthy. His wife never really had been part of the financial decision-making process. She arrived with 3 boxes of old correspondence from various investment companies. There was no organization, just paperwork. I spent countless billable hours contacting these companies, with the purpose of determining if these were active investments or not. Some were and some weren’t. While I took care to ensure that I did this work in the most efficient way possible, our bill was sizable and could have been avoided.
These days, with computerized records things are a little easier, as long as the people who need to know, know what investments exists, passwords to access the information etc. It can be painful, but this type of organization should be done to make the transition after death much easier.
The Alzheimer Society of Ontario has an estate planner and guide to prepare these documents. However, as there is tax planning involved that can save your estate a lot of money, and Wills and powers of attorney are a specialized area that requires specific knowledge to ensure binding documents, I highly recommend that you also use the services of a lawyer to assist you – the result – peace of mind.
Really, there is no need to be overwhelmed. Asking for help gets the process started and it is faster than you may be imagining. And the peace of mind is measurable.
November is Make a Will Month. And this month YOU could be our Super Hero! By doing your Will and including a charitable gift you can save taxes, protect those you care about and help save the world from dementia! Act now! Click here to request your free Estate Planner and Guide or call Kristy Cutten at 416-847-8915.