Estate planning

Estate planning isn't something most people look forward to doing. But making sure your wishes are known and your affairs are in order is a way to show your loved ones you care. It will also make that difficult time a little easier for them.

Here are some estate planning basics to help you get started:

Step 1: Draw up a will

Why do you need a will? Because it's a legal document that sets out who gets what when you die. Who can draw up a will? Anyone who's at least 18 years of age and of "sound mind." It doesn't cost much to have one prepared by a lawyer or a notary and it can save a lot of headaches later on.

For more information about wills, refer to the Seniors Canada External link. Opens in a new window. site.

Step 2: Draw up an enduring power of attorney

An enduring power of attorney is a legal document that gives a person the authority to act on your behalf if you're:

  • Terminally ill
  • Permanently unconscious
  • Otherwise unfit

Step 3: Draw up a living will

A living will is a legal document that's different from a regular will. It lets your family and physicians know what type of care you want to receive if you're suffering from a debilitating illness or injury.

A living will takes effect only if you become unable to express your wishes.

Step 4: Choose an executor

The executor is the person you name in your will to handle your estate. This person's responsibilities include:

  • Paying debts and taxes
  • Notifying government agencies of your death
  • Cancelling credit cards, magazine subscriptions, etc.
  • Closing bank accounts
  • Dividing up your property according to your last wishes

You can make the executor's job easier by keeping all the information they'll need in one place. The Personal Record (PDF, 600 KB) Opens in a new window. and Quick Reference (PDF, 36 KB) Opens in a new window. in case of death or incapacity can help you do this.

Provided you choose a reliable adult, the choice of executor is yours. Most people pick a family member or a close friend, but you can also name a lawyer, a private trust company or the public trustee.

Step 5: Tell your loved ones what your wishes are

It's important for your loved one to know how you want your estate handled and why you've made the choices you've made. That way, they'll be fewer conflicts or reasons to contest your will after you die.

Tips from an expert

Talk to a representative or your financial institution about…

  • Making sure your insurance policy and retirement savings plan beneficiary designations are up to date to avoid any delays in settling your estate
  • How they can contact your executor (name, address, phone number, etc.)

Talk to a lawyer or a notary about…

  • The more complex aspects of your personal situation
  • Any improvements you can make to your plans
  • Ensuring your documents comply with the applicable legislation

Talk to an accountant or a tax specialist about…

  • The more complex aspects of your personal situation, especially if you've got a lot of assets
  • How to improve your plans