Estate planning includes the process of mapping out who will make decisions about your health care and assets—money and property— if you become incompetent, as well as what happens to your asset safter you pass away. It can also direct who will care for your children and pets when you’re gone.
A surprising 66% of Canadians don’t know the end-of-life wishes of their spouse. But this is probably largely because no one wants to think about their demise. However, neglecting this important issue could cause uncertainty, family fights, and the payment of higher disposition taxes. Do your family a favour—complete these essential estate planning documents today so there are fewer questions at the end of your life.
Also known as a “power of attorney,” this estate planning document gives a designated person the power to act in your stead if you become incapacitated. Living wills come in several forms. For instance:
- A medical/healthcare power of attorney conveys your wishes concerning life support and other medical procedures if you become terminally ill, unconscious, or brain dead.
- A financial power of attorney allows your chosen person to pay your bills, file your tax returns, and make bank deposits and withdrawals on your behalf.
- A property power of attorney transfers authority to manage your real estate assets.
A will, also called a “last will and testament,” is the pillar of any estate plan. If you die without a will—known as dying intestate—the province you lived in decides how to distribute your assets. The laws of intestacy typically distribute the first $50,000 of value of your estate to your surviving spouse and divide the rest between your spouse and children. If you have no spouse or children, your parents are next in line to receive your assets, followed by your siblings.
Wills include the following information:
- Named executor (the person responsible for carrying out your wishes)
- Primary beneficiaries (the people you want to give specific assets to)
- Secondary beneficiaries (the people who will receive certain assets if the primary beneficiaries pass away)
- Named guardian(s) for your minor children
- Life insurance policy information
- Disability insurance information
- Funeral wishes
While a will ensures that your heirs inherit the appropriate assets, a trust is often a more efficient way to transfer those assets. A trust allows you to transfer assets while you’re alive, bypass probate and the associated fees, and reduce capital gains taxes. Many types of trusts are available to suit different needs. Some examples include:
- Revocable living trust
- Testamentary trust
- Alter-ego trust
- Joint-spousal trust
Estate planning is a complex topic. To ensure your end-of-life wishes are granted, your best bet is to work with an estate planning lawyer at Miskin Law Professional Corporation. Our Ontario lawyers have over 60 years of combined experience and are ready to help you create a sound estate plan. Call our Peterborough office today at 647-849-3160 or schedule your free consultation online.