The Season of Giving: Why Having an Estate Plan is a Gift to Others

By Riaan Botha, Senior Trust Advisor

A Checklist For Your Family

The holiday season is a time when most of us enjoy time with our family. This might also be the best time to consider introducing the subject of your estate plan. This may be one of the few times when your entire family may be together and you have a chance to take stock of your current family situation and ensure everyone is aligned as to what will happen after your passing. You can give your family the most important gift of all this holiday season: the gift of peace of mind. Telling your loved ones about your wishes and the plans you have made can prevent misunderstandings and unburden your loved ones from having to make difficult decisions. Consider the following checklist for your family as you begin to introduce the subject of estate planning during the holidays.

1. Do you have a last will and testament and is it up to date?

Creating a will is a stressful process, but there is never a bad time to start estate planning and is a necessary life step.

  • A will allows you to decide who gets what - When you die without a will, intestate succession laws will dictate which family members will inherit your estate and in what proportion.
  • A will names the executor who will be responsible to wrap up your estate. Should this be a family member, make sure they understand what is expected of them and that they are comfortable and confident that they will be able to take up this role.
  • A testamentary trust may be established in terms of the will. A testamentary trust is especially useful in the following four situations:
    • Your beneficiaries are unable to manage their inheritance.
    • Your beneficiaries are minors.
    • Your beneficiaries have debts.
    • Blended families - you could decide that your surviving spouse can draw income from the trust, but that upon their death the assets will be transferred to the children from your first marriage.

2. Do you have a Power of Attorney for Property?

Sound decision-making can be impacted by a number of ailments. Whether it is a disease like dementia, a traumatic brain injury, or another debilitating disorder, having a properly executed power of attorney (POA) for property will ensure it is clear who will be responsible for your money and property if you cannot manage them on your own.

3. Do you have a Power of Attorney for Personal Care?

A power of attorney for personal care is a written document in which you give someone the power to make decisions about your personal care should you become unable to make these decisions yourself.

Talk About It

The holidays should not be the only time your family hears about your plans and wishes. An estate plan is something that should be flexible, adapt as things change in your life, and make sure the conversation with your loved ones is an ongoing one. Notify your family ahead of time that you want to set aside some time during your family visit for this important conversation. If this is going to be a sensitive discussion, make sure your timing of the conversation is appropriate.

Approach the Subject with Sensitivity

It can be difficult for adult children to see their parents age. It can also be difficult for people to confront their mortality and talk about death.

For these reasons, it is important to approach the subject with sensitivity and to be prepared for an emotional response. Focus on wanting to provide peace of mind.

End on a Positive Note

Talking about your estate plan need not be a morbid or negative experience. Emphasize your desire to have your wishes known and respected so your loved ones have peace of mind.

Preparing your Executor

  • Keep estate documents updated.
  • Understand the structure of your assets.
  • Keep and update estate information.
    • Integrated Will Memo.
    • Digital Inventory.
  • How will obligations be met on death?
    • Contractual.
    • Family (support, property claims).
  • Create business succession plan.

Your legacy is a fingerprint on the lives you touch, preserve and protect your legacy by ensuring your estate plan is up to date.

Statistics and factual data and other information are from sources RJL believes to be reliable but their accuracy cannot be guaranteed. It is for information purposes only and is not to be construed as an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of securities nor is it meant to replace legal, accounting, taxation or other professional advice. We are not tax advisors and we recommend that clients seek independent advice from a professional advisor on tax-related matters. The information is furnished on the basis and understanding that RJL is to be under no liability whatsoever in respect thereof. This is intended for distribution only in those jurisdictions where RJL and the author are registered. Securities-related products and services are offered through Raymond James Ltd., Member - Canadian Investor Protection Fund. Insurance products and services are offered through Raymond James Financial Planning Ltd. (“RJFP”), a subsidiary of Raymond James Ltd., which is not a Member - Canadian Investor Protection Fund. When providing life insurance products, Financial Advisors are acting as Insurance Representatives of RJFP. Raymond James Trust Services are offered by Raymond James Trust (Canada) in the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario, and by Raymond James Trust (Québec) Ltd. in the province of Québec. Trust Services are not covered by the Canadian Investor Protection Fund. Raymond James advisors are not tax advisors and we recommend that clients seek independent advice from a professional advisor on tax-related matters.