What is estate planning?

Estate planning. Also known as: Writing down what you want to happen—to you, your loved ones, your money, and your stuff—in case of the unexpected. You know it’s important, so to make it easy, we’ve made you a playlist. Sit back, grab your microwave popcorn, and press play. Or rather, press plan.

Episode 1

The one where you learn about estate planning 

Whether you know it or not, you have an estate. It’s all the stuff you own—your home, your car, your TV, your coffee maker, and the money you have—your chequing account, your retirement savings, and more. And when you have an estate, you need a plan for where all of it will end up when it’s no longer with you. 

Your estate plan helps protect your estate, the people you love, and you

Having an estate plan lets you decide who gets the stuff you own, along with how and when they get it. It can also detail who you want to care for your children, your health, or your money if you can’t. Without an estate plan, courts and provincial laws will settle these decisions for you—and they might not line up with what you had in mind.

Your estate plan can save time and money

A well-thought-out estate plan may help ensure:

  • Your medical and financial best interests are looked after—with less delay and uncertainty—if you can’t look after them yourself
  • Your estate settles more quickly after you’ve passed—avoiding delays and expenses that sometimes arise
  • Certain investment and insurance values get paid directly to the beneficiaries you name— avoiding any taxes that might have applied to those values if they’d gone through your estate

Estate planning can seem complicated at first glance. But it isn’t as hard as you might think. 

Episode 2

The one where you do a lot of thinking

The big five—these are important decisions you need to make. You’ll need to think about:

1 Your stuff and your money

Make a list. Include:

  • Big things such as your home or car
  • Little things such as jewellery, technology, or your prized collection of salt and pepper shakers
  • Digital things such as websites, accounts, subscriptions, and passwords
  • Financial things such as savings, investments, insurance, and debt

Also include any associated company and contact information.

2 Your beneficiaries

Decide who you want to get what. Beneficiaries are usually people, but they can also be organizations, such as a charity.

3 Your dependents

Consider who you want to take care of your kids, stepkids, pets, or other loved ones who rely on you. If you own a business, don’t forget to think about all the people who count on your leadership.  

4 Your executor

Consider who you want to oversee the handling of your estate. An executor is usually a person, more than one person, or trust company. In Quebec, an executor is called a liquidator.

5 Yourself

Consider who you want to make your health and money decisions if you can’t make them for yourself. This is called having a power of attorney; in Quebec it’s called a mandate. There are two types—one for your personal care and one for your property.

Episode 3

The one where you talk about it

It’s time to ask some experts for help, to bring your loved ones up to speed, and to confirm that your chosen guardians, executors, and attorneys are up to the task. 

Set up some time to talk to:

An advisor—Getting expert advice from a financial advisor can help you feel confident that you’ve got everything in place to help protect yourself and your loved ones. 

A lawyer—Getting legal direction from a lawyer will cost some money, but it can save you and your loved ones from fees, taxes, and headaches later. 

Your loved ones and helpers—If you’re worried about bringing this up, you’re not alone. You know your loved ones best, so be thoughtful about the best time and place. Once you’ve talked it over, make sure you introduce each of them to your advisor and your lawyer.

Episode 4

The one where you sign on the dotted line

When your estate plan is eventually needed, you won’t be there to clarify what you meant or to fix what you forgot. 

Your policies and accounts—Your advisor can help you get your savings, investments, insurance, and debt in the best shape they can be for you and your beneficiaries.

Your will and powers of attorney—Your lawyer can help make sure your will and powers of attorney are clear, correct, and complete.

Organize your important documents and store them in a safe place. Be sure to tell your loved ones and helpers where they are.

Episodes 5, 6, and so on

The ones where you keep checking it

Revisit your estate plan as each season of life unfolds. Marriage? A new baby? A grandchild? Did you buy a house? A cottage? Has your financial situation changed? Are your loved ones or helpers still willing and able to perform their roles? Keep your estate plan up to date as your life—and your wishes—change. 

Estate planning. Beneficiaries. Dependents. Executors. Your will and your powers of attorney. It’s all important. So follow along, episode by episode. And when you’re done, you can binge-watch all you want—knowing your stuff, your money, you, and your loved ones are protected.  

The commentary in this publication is for general information only and should not be considered legal, financial, or tax advice to any party. Individuals should seek the advice of professionals to ensure that any action taken with respect to this information is appropriate to their specific situation.