Garton & Harris

Is a will all I need in my estate plan?

Estate planning and wills go hand in hand. But is that everything that you need for you estate plan to be complete? A good will includes directives that tell everyone what you want to happen to your property when you are no longer here.

Do you have any real estate, money, investments or personal belongings that you want to bequeath? These all go in your will.

Items that a will doesn't deal with is any property or assets that you own jointly, not exclusively. If you have a joint bank account or even a home that is in you and your spouse's name, the asset will have a right to survivorship. A right to survivorship means that the whole body of the asset becomes the other person's sole property when you die.

A will doesn't deal with insurance, a registered retirement savings plan, a registered retirement income fund or anything that already has a beneficiary named in it.

The good thing is, the will isn't activated until you are gone and you can change it as many times and as often as you want.

A will is actually only part of an overall estate plan. You can transfer assets to beneficiaries without a will and without the tax consequences. Talking to your attorney about this may be a good idea.

You will need an executor or someone who will safeguard the estate. For example, someone who will make sure your debts are all paid off when you can't see to it anymore. This person will also divide your estate for you among the persons named in your will.

Naming your attorney as your executor is something that may be worth looking into. If you are an executor, having an attorney beside you who will go over all the documents and let you know in a very clear manner what is to happen is such a relief.

Source: The Canadian Bar Association, British Columbia Branch, "Making a Will and Estate Planning," accessed May. 28, 2015

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