It’s that time of year again. When it comes to making resolutions for the coming year, why not consider making some important estate planning resolutions while you’re at it? It’s important that you have an estate plan. and that you review it from time to time. If you haven’t done it in a while, we’ve provided a list of four estate planning resolutions over two blog posts to get you started! Our top four list of estate resolutions are:
- Review your Will and Trust Documents;
- Review your Powers of Attorney for Property and Personal Care;
- Review who you have appointed as Estate Trustee; and
- Review your beneficiary designations.
1. Review Your Will and Trust Documents
If you don’t have a Will, or if you have a Will, but haven’t reviewed it lately, it is time to look at it again. Updating your Will regularly as your life and assets change will help ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes without excessive tax burdens or legal challenges. A Will allows you to divide your property between the beneficiaries you choose, and to protect the value of your estate. If you do not have a Will or your Will is invalid, you will die ‘intestate’, which can cause significant headaches and expense for your loved ones. Intestacy means that your estate will be distributed according to a statutory formula, which does not take into account what you might have wanted to do with your property. In Ontario, marriage automatically revokes a person’s current Will unless the person’s Will was made expressly in contemplation of the specific, pending marriage or if the new spouse elects to enforce the Will which was made prior to marriage. So, if you re-marry and don’t make your Will in contemplation of your new marriage or draft a new Will after you get married, you will also die intestate.
2. Review Your Powers of Attorney for Property and Personal Care
Similarly, it is a good idea for you to assign legal responsibility for the management of your finances and personal care to someone you trust before you are unable to look after them yourself by executing or updating your Powers of Attorney. With a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property, you can ensure that someone who understands your financial goals will manage your property on your behalf; and with a Power of Attorney for Personal Care, you can ensure that you will receive the medical care that you want. If you are in a common law relationship, and you want your spouse to be making these decisions, it is important that you have Powers of Attorney in place; otherwise, they might find themselves with no ability to make decisions on your behalf.
See our blog post next week for Resolutions #3 and #4.