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It’s important that estate planners create detailed plans that they’re happy with before they pass away. Estate planning goes well beyond simply writing a will, and it’s easy to forget about important pieces of a complete estate plan. In this blog, we hope to help you better prepare for your passing, making the estate administration as seamless as possible for your loved ones.
With estate planning, a goal should be to avoid any estate disputes amongst beneficiaries. Estate disputes create unnecessary stress, anger and conflict between your loved ones that could usually be avoided if you prepared for this possibility in your estate plan. Often, disputes arise when a family member is surprised as to the way your estate plan is written, having expected something different. Simply talking with your beneficiaries and family can prevent disputes, sometimes preventing lengthy legal proceedings. Hearing from you and understanding your reasons for making the bequests you did is usually enough to prevent conflict from arising.
People are always asking: at what age should I prepare my will? Unfortunately, there isn’t any magical age that we can tell someone to write their will. The answer to this depends on each person’s financial situation and at which stage they are in their life. Ultimately, it’s always best to prepare sooner rather than later and we encourage people to at least start thinking about their estate plan as soon as they’ve accumulated any assets. For more information, read our blog on when it’s time to write a will.
Naming someone to be your power of attorney or representative in the case that you become incapable in the future is an important piece of a complete estate plan. You can appoint someone now, giving them powers over your financial, personal, health and legal decisions if you become incapable in the future. You are also able to appoint an attorney who only has powers over legal decision. Appointing an attorney is an important precaution and could avoid a loved one having to go through court processes to be named your committee in order to have the ability to act on your behalf.
Because of the estate administration costs, taxes, or unpaid debts that arise after death, it’s impossible to determine the exact value of your estate while planning. The volatile housing market also means that a house or land is likely to increase in value after you finish your final will. To avoid leaving assets in your estate without a beneficiary, will-writers often make a residuary clause in their will. This usually looks something like, “The residue of my estate is to be given to my husband.” If there is no residuary clause, the residue of the estate falls intestate and is distributed according to intestacy laws.
If you were keen and prepared your will early, there should be many more life events ahead of you which warrant a revision to your will. Maybe you write your will then in the future get married, buy a new car, invest in property, or have a child; whatever the case, you will want to modify your will to reflect any significant life change. Once you’ve prepared your will, it’s usually not difficult to re-write a new will to reflect the new changes in your life. Another option is to prepare a codicil when you wish to make a simple change to your will.
Accounting for all of your assets is one of the first tasks your will’s executor is responsible with. It’s usually quite obvious to the will-writer what assets they own and where they are. This information is not always so obvious to the executor. What you can do to help alleviate the burden on the executor is prepare a detailed list of all your estate assets. Outlining what the assets are, what their approximate values might be and where they can be found will be very helpful for executors. Without this, executors are left scrambling to account for everything that you owned. Further, will-writers should include any passwords and account information for digital assets. For example, leaving email passwords can be extremely helpful for executors as email information might be crucial during estate administration.
Life insurance is usually thought of as protection in the case of an unexpected death – protecting loved ones by providing a significant sum of money to help care for them. Another way to look at life insurance for elderly people is as an estate planning tool. Having a life insurance plan can reduce probate fees, make estate administration more efficient and increase privacy. For more information, read our blog on life insurance as an estate planning method.
For people who have large estates, it might be a good idea to write two wills – one for probate assets and one for probate-exempt assets. By doing this, you can minimize your taxes owed and increase the value of your estate. There are some implications with a secondary will that should be considered; however, it is usually a good idea for business owners or people who own many shares in a company. For more information, read our blog on secondary wills.
While you’re allowed to create your own valid will in BC, it’s not always the most suitable option. There are countless intricacies and details that go into planning a will in the best interest of the will-writer and their beneficiaries. The language in the will needs to be well drafted or else it can raise complications in the probate stage. With the help of an estate lawyer, you can be sure your will won’t create unnecessary difficulties and will be executed as you’re expecting. If you need help preparing your estate plan or simply want someone to review your will, contact an experienced estate lawyer who understands BC’s estate laws.