Shed Some Light: Developing an Estate Plan for Your Family’s Future

It’s a topic many people would rather not think about as it can be a very unwelcoming thought. It can serve as a reminder of loved ones who have passed, or potentially even more difficult, thinking of your own mortality.

Planning your estate is the best way to ensure your legacy lives on with the people you care most about. An estate plan will guarantee your wishes and directives are known.  If you were to become incapacitated or are no longer capable of providing those directives yourself, they’ll be carried out as you intend them to be carried out with an estate plan.

“A large portion of people who come see us have never really thought about having an estate plan,” says Jillian Koch, a partner who specializes in Canadian estate matters. “They haven’t considered how to deal with their assets in the most tax effective manner, either for themselves or their children or grandchildren.”

Having an estate plan is not only for the wealthy. It can be helpful for almost everyone. Working with an estate practitioner allows you to make informed and considered decisions about the ownership, management, and distribution of wealth during your lifetime and upon your death. An estate practitioner can also help reduce or eliminate taxes which can be imposed at death, or provide a payment plan to help beneficiaries cover immediate and future needs.

“A lot of times, people don’t consider what assets they’re holding and how they can funnel them down the family line while still being able to live their remaining years how they want to,” says Koch. “We can help figure out how to best structure their finances so they can live their retirement comfortably while also being able to leave things for their children, if they want.”

The process itself is not as stressful as you might think. Koch and Darren Peterson, another partner here, have years of experience in estate planning so they can be your trusted advisor, because they know that your trust is at the heart of the financial planning relationship.

We’ll work with you to prepare a financial inventory, detailing both your assets and liabilities. We’ll then define your personal and financial goals based on your unique situation. Finally, we’ll identify your options and allow you to make informed choices to implement the best combination of estate planning solutions.

“Our office works in conjunction with your lawyer’s office to make sure your will accurately reflects what you want and desire, and then we’ll consider all the tax implications,” says Koch. “We’ll then figure out what the best plan and strategy to make sure the family stays happy and content during the process.”

The most important thing to remember when it comes to planning your estate is that there’s never a better time to start planning than the present. Not having a plan can mean forfeiting the ability to select an executor, not being able to distribute your estate according to your wishes, delays in the distribution to your beneficiaries, additional fees, additional taxes and other unpleasant outcomes.

“The biggest thing that can happen if there’s no proper estate plan, is that you can pay almost 50% of whatever assets a person has in taxes,” states Koch. “The other thing is that people hold assets that aren’t liquid – like a rental property or a cottage, and when someone passes, everything is deemed disposed and then the estate doesn’t have the money to pay for the taxes. So kids wind up having to sell that cottage in order to pay for the tax instead of being able to keep it in the family.”

If you hold private company shares, or own a small business, an estate plan will ensure the business can stay within your family and continue to operate without having to pay a large tax bill.

Once you have a plan in place, it’s not like your life will suddenly stop changing and evolving. Your personal and financial situations are likely to change at some point or another. It’s a good idea to reevaluate your estate plan every three to five years in order to make sure your needs continue to be met.

Anytime there’s a life changing moment in your life – like marriages or new additions to the family tree, it’s wise to review your estate plan with us, you trusted advisors and make sure everything is up-to-date.