Discussing Your Estate Planning with Your Family Over the Holidays

Uncategorized Dec 19, 2017

One of my most popular blog posts of 2017 was the one on “Do I Need A Will”.

If you have made a will and other estate planning documents (such as financial power of attorney, personal directives, guardianship appointments), CONGRATULATIONS! You get a gold star! Most people in Canada do not have an up to date will.

Since many of us will be spending time with our families over the holidays, it can be a good time to pass along some information to them about EITHER what you have put in place OR what you have planned.

  1. Identity of Executor(s) – I often say that choosing an executor is the most important piece of your will planning. Has your executor agreed to take on the role? Do your family members know who you have chosen? You are not required to tell anyone, but it is a good idea to have a conversation with family members so you can explain your reasons, particularly if there may be some dispute or hurt feelings.
  2. Location of Important Documents – Does your executor know where your original will is? Could your executor or another family member find other important documents that they would need?
  3. Listing of Accounts and Passwords – Make it as easy as possible for someone to figure out what you own, what you owe and how to access any online accounts. If you are a paper person, you can make a binder or file. If you keep electronic records, you can use a Password manager to store passwords.
  4. Wishes Regarding Your Business – While it is not always necessary to specifically mention your business assets in your will, you should leave some instructions or direction in terms of what you want to happen to your business if you die or become incapacitated. Is there someone who wants to buy the business (employees, other shareholders, supplier etc.)? Who are the advisors (accountant, banker, lawyer) who have relevant information about the business?
  5. Personal and Household Items – Whether or not personal items are valuable, they are a frequent point of dispute among family members, often due to their sentimental value. If you have established a method to distribute them on your death, tell your family about this.  If you have made a list of who gets what, make sure that list is with your important documents.
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