Estate planning is making arrangements for your personal and financial affairs to be looked after in the event of your passing, or your inability to make decisions for yourself. Many people may think that a will alone is sufficient, but estate planning goes far beyond the creation of a will.
Creating trusts, enduring powers of attorney, and taking care of assets that may pass outside of a will or testamentary document are just some of the factors you may want to consider when you think about creating a will.
The Government of British Columbia has posted some helpful tips on what you should think about when planning your estate. Below we've highlighted a few of the more common and general documents:
The Will: This is the document that outlines how you wish your assets to be divided after you pass away. You would appoint someone, known as the Estate Trustee or Executor, to administer the will. This means giving that person (or persons - you can select more than one) access to your financial accounts to wrap up any outstanding debts, taxes, or sales (for example, if you decide to sell your home and give the proceeds to your surviving family). This person would also be the one to administer the property you are leaving behind to loved ones.
Trusts: This type of set-up allows you to put aside some finances for a specific use. For example, if your children are underage at the time of your passing, you can give them a portion of your estate, but withhold access until they are adults. A Trustee would be designated to manage a trust until the beneficiary is ready to take over.
Enduring Powers of Attorney: The purpose of this document is to provide instructions for how to handle your estate while you are still alive, but unable to make decisions for yourself. If you are incapacitated, either physically or mentally, you can designate someone to make decisions regarding your health, and regarding your finances. It's important to discuss your wishes with these individuals while you are mentally able to do so, so they can make choices in line with what decisions you would normally make.
Other Documents: It's important to take stock of all your assets, such as life insurance and business affairs. You may not be able to bequeath a business share or property if there are pre-established rules in place. For life insurance policies, these generally pass outside of the will, so it's important to also make sure you carefully select the beneficiaries for any of these policies.
If you are unsure about what you can put into a will or a trust, or what responsibilities to give an enduring power of attorney, it's best to speak to a legal professional for further guidance.