The importance of an estate plan
Sarah is concerned about what will happen to her hard earned estate after what had happened to some of the people she knew.
Vivian had remarried and chose to cut costs by using a do-it-yourself will kit. As she had not allowed for obligations set out in her deceased husband's will, it took almost two years and cost thousands of dollars in legal fees to settle her estate.
James had a substantial farming operation on the outskirts of a small town. As the town grew, his land was annexed. He did not have a will when he died. It took nearly a decade to settle his estate. The delay also affected the commercial and residential growth of the community.
Catherine suffered a stroke and was left incapacitated for several months, unable to look after her affairs. Because she was joint owner with her husband on their home, the mortgage could not be renewed because she couldn't sign the papers. Her business had to be closed because no one else had the authority to run things in her absence.
Roy, a wealthy barber and widower, owned the building that housed his shop, RRSPs and other investment assets when he died. He happened to die when the markets were low and real estate in his city was depressed, especially commercial property. His kids had to sell his assets at bargain basement prices to pay the income taxes owing. They received less than sixty cents on the dollar after taxes and fees.
Helga's children fought for two days about funeral arrangements when she died. They were divided on cremation or burial. A brother and sister were still not speaking to each other after several years.
Sarah made the following estate planning checklist:
1. Have a properly prepared, up-to-date will that distributes my assets according to my wishes. This is the cornerstone.
2. Have a Power of Attorney that appoints someone I trust to manage my affairs if I can't.
3. Have a Living Will or Personal Directive that addresses my health-care wishes.
4. Make sure there will be enough money to look after the lifestyle needs of my dependants.
5. Make sure there will be enough money to pay off all my debts and obligations.
6. Make sure there will be enough money to cover my taxes and other estate costs.
7. Make sure my family is aware of my funeral and burial or cremation wishes. Once she has established her estate plan, Sarah will review it every few years or whenever her situation changes.