For most people, estate planning consists of two things: making a Will, and making Powers of Attorney for both Property and Personal Care.
Preparing to make a Will
When it comes to your Will, the first thing you need to think about is picking an Estate Trustee. In addition to your primary trustee, it’s a good idea to also name an alternate (or backup) in case for any reason your first choice for an Estate Trustee isn’t able to act when the time comes. You should have an idea who you would like to be your primary and alternate Estate Trustee when you meet with your estates lawyer.
Choosing an Estate Trustee is not easy. The Estate Trustee’s job is to step in after death to meet with the estate lawyer, gather up the assets in the estate, pay off any debts and taxes owing and then distribute the remaining assets in the estate to the beneficiaries as laid out in the Will. It can be a lot of work – serving as an Estate Trustee is a job, rather than a benefit.
You will want to pick someone who will be up to this job. You must choose an adult, preferably resident in the same province as yourself and look for someone who is well organized, a good communicator and will follow through to get things done. Ideally, the Estate Trustee is someone who will have the confidence and trust of the beneficiaries.
In addition to thinking about your Estate Trustees, you should also prepare a list of your assets. You don’t need to list every single item you own! But you will want to identify your major assets and any items of particular importance that will need special treatment after you are gone. If you want specific items distributed in specific ways, make sure you bring a list identifying what you want to go where.
Assets includes financial assets – you should put together a list of your major financial assets (investment, accounts, retirement and other savings, etc.), and include the contact information for all financial institutions you deal with.
Finally, you should prepare a list of any debt obligations you may have – mortgages, loans, etc.
Preparing Powers of Attorney
There are two types of Powers of Attorney: for Property and for Personal Care. You should come with an idea of who you would like to choose to fulfill these vital roles for you.
The person(s) you name in your Power of Attorney for Property will have the authority to manage all of your property while you are alive. While they cannot change your Will or any Designated Beneficiaries for financial investments, they can do just about anything else relating to your property, including managing your investments, dealing with your financial affairs and accounts, and dealing with real property like a house.
Your Attorney for Personal Care will be someone who will make healthcare decisions for you if you are too ill to instruct your doctor(s). This can include decisions about your treatment, housing, and similar matters relating to your personal care.
In both cases, you must choose an adult, again preferably someone who resides in the same province as you, and, above all, someone that you have complete confidence and trust in. If you have any doubt about the person’s honesty or trustworthiness, please look for someone else.
Bring your questions!
Wondering what assets & debts you need to consider in your Will? Having trouble choosing your Estate Trustee? Uncertain who would make the best Attorneys for Property and Personal Care? That’s okay! This is where we come in. When you consult with one of our Hamilton Wills and Estates Lawyers, make sure you bring your questions and we give you all the information you need to make an informed decision about how your affairs should be handled.
Ready to speak with a Wills and Estates lawyer?
A carefully prepared Will is among the most thoughtful gifts you can leave for your loved ones, and Powers of Attorney can give you peace of mind knowing your affairs are in good hands.
Speak to one of our Hamilton wills & estates lawyers today to get expert advice about your unique situation.