Estate Planning: Starting 2021 on the Right Foot
Ah, January. A new year, a new start. This year, more than any other, people are putting 2020 behind them with ‘extreme prejudice’, and planning for a much different and much better year ahead.
Some will be giving up sugar, others will take up running, or tackling that Spanish language textbook that’s been sitting in the corner since the first season of Narcos. Some of us will even get our estate affairs in order.
With that in mind, we present a few considerations for 2021 when making sure our affairs are all set.
A Power of Attorney: Nobody expects to lose the ability to make financial decisions. But it does happen, and as we age, the risks increase. Giving someone you trust the power to make decisions for you in the event you’re no longer able to do so, can save a lot of time down the road, and a lot of money in legal expenses.
A Will: Without one, your assets will be divided according to provincial law. If you have children, and no Will, your kids may be placed in the care of a guardian who is maybe not your first choice. It is your “last word” and the single most important document in your estate files. Our colleague, Kira Domratchev, blogged about the importance of a Will in November of 2020.
Banking Information: According to the Bank of Canada at the end of 2019, there were approximately 2.1 million unclaimed balances, worth $888 million, sitting in unclaimed bank accounts across the country. Have a list of your banks and accounts, including safety deposit boxes, and ensure that your family knows where it is.
Insurance Policies: Many insurance plans provide benefits for funeral plans or list a chosen beneficiary who is entitled to the policy. Make sure that your insurance plan is up to date, and keep copies close to your Will. This also applies to any RRSPs or pension plans that may include a benefit to someone in the event that something were to happen.
Proof of Ownership: Whether it’s the family cottage, that 1965 Mustang GT 390 Fastback, or your condo in Kitsilano: Without proof of ownership, your family may not know what you have or where it is.
Passwords: As we have blogged in the past, your online presence needs proper safeguards, but also creates important considerations for your executor or trustee who will need access to your online information and/or assets. Whether you use an online password manager, such as these, or keep an old-fashioned paper list, make sure it can be found by your family if needed.
Finally, these documents are important and need to be kept safe. Thankfully, in January of 2020, the New York Times undertook an investigation to determine the best fireproof documents safe. You can read about the results here.
We wish you all the very best in 2021, and thanks for reading!
Ian Hull and Daniel Enright