Garton & Harris

How to "stress test" a will throughout one's life

Some people may consider estate planning a "set it and forget it" exercise. However, without regular review, British Columbia estate planners may find that their wills become outdated, or they may miss key elements altogether. Regular stress tests, ideally done as a family with the support of a legal professional, can prevent mistakes or gaps in planning.

First, ensure important documents are in place, such as a will, business succession plan and deeds. Review these to ensure the plans initially put in place still make sense. Has the business changed, making the succession plan now impractical? Are the family's priorities and intention still reflected in these documents? These are important questions to ask during the regular review.

Sometimes, logistics may impact whether or not estate plans are truly practical. Someone named as a power of attorney, for example, may have relocated out of the province or country. An executor may have grown his or her family or taken on a challenging job, thereby making him or her less available to manage the responsibilities of that position. Taking stock of the situation for all involved, not just the planner, is a key part of this stress test.

Finally, the last step is to communicate and set expectations. It is possible that beneficiaries might believe they will receive more in the estate than is reasonable, or even available. This can lead to conflict down the line, making expectation-setting an important part of the regular review. Those with questions about when and how to review and adjust their wills and estate plans should discuss their situation with a British Columbia lawyer.

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