DeDominicis: Thinking about your estate plan

Here are some simple questions to help you plan the state of your estate you leave behind.

If you don’t already have a will in place, or if you haven’t looked at it for a while, take five minutes to answer these simple questions. You may be surprised how many of them apply to you.

• Do you have a will?

If you die without a will, your assets may be administered by the Public Trustee and distributed in a manner contrary to your wishes.

• Do you have children?

Your will is the legal instrument that allows you to appoint an executor/trustee and the guardian of your children. If you do not have a will, the government may act as guardian of your children until a court appointed guardian is selected, and any money for the benefit of your children will be held by the government until your children turn 19. Wouldn’t you prefer to appoint close family members or friends to take care of your children and to control at what age they receive their Trust fund?

• Has there been a change in your marital status?

Divorce or marriage may have a significant impact on your estate distribution. Children of a prior marriage may not receive what is intended without the completion of a new will.

• Are you a blended family?

A blended family situation adds complexity to your estate plan. Tangled assets, ex‐spouses, “your children, my children and our children” can have major ramifications on your estate plan.

• Has there been a change in your net worth?

Probate fees increase and tax matters become more complex as your net worth increases. There are ways to minimize both for your estate.

• Do you have a Power of Attorney and Representation Agreement?

If you become incapacitated without an Enduring Power of Attorney and Representation Agreement, your financial and health care decisions may become the responsibility of a government official who is not familiar with your wishes.

• Do you know much about trusts?

You’ve probably heard the term but how do you know if it’s right for you? Trusts are an excellent tool which can protect your estate from Wills Variation claims and save you thousands in taxes.

• Do you have a business?

Giving assets or shares in a company is a tricky business. Any shareholder agreements or partnership agreements need to be carefully reviewed by your lawyer to ensure they reflect your wishes.

• Do you have assets outside of B.C.?

If you own assets in another province or country it is very important to discuss these with your lawyer to make sure your estate plan provides for the most tax‐effective disposition of these assets.

 

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