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Important Estate Planning Tips

An estate is the sum of what one owns (assets) and what one owes (liabilities) at their time of death. An estate plan addresses how one would like their assets and liabilities dealt with and who will manage their wealth once passed.

Having these details sorted before hand can relive stress by reducing the number of decisions your loved ones will have to make. And even though your Will outlines all your wishes you should still sit down with your family and friends to inform them with the details yourself. This will let them know what to expect so they aren’t surprised later on.

There’s a lot that goes into making an estate plan but here are some things to consider when getting started:

Do I need a Power of Attorney (POA)? 

Assigning someone as your Power of Attorney (POA) allows them to make decisions on your behalf, fully giving them the ability to manage your personal care and/or property. A POA for your personal care can make decisions to your health care, housing, and other aspects of your personal life. And a POA for your property can make decisions about your financial affairs (like your bills, investments, mortgage, and other loans).

You can only have a POA while you’re living, once you pass your finances will be managed by the executor stated on your Will. You can name more than one person as your POA. 


A beneficiary is a person(s) who will receive the death benefit from your insurance and/or the funds from registered investment accounts. Having a beneficiary set up will minimize probate taxes and when one is not appointed the funds will go to the estate instead.

All registered plans like Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF), Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA), and insurance policies should have an appointed beneficiary and be kept up to date throughout your life as things may change.

The Type of Wills You Could Have 

There are two main types of Wills, attested Wills and holograph Wills. Both are serving the same function and are valid but require different things to make them legal. An attested Will is prepared on a computer or pre-printed and filled out, the person making the Will needs to sign it in front of two witnesses, who also need to sign the Will. The two witnesses must sign an affidavit to swear that they saw the Will being singed and that they believe the person was capable of making the Will. A holograph Will must be completely handwritten. dated, and signed by the person making the Will.

 A Will typically includes:

  • An outline of the administrative powers of the executor(s)/ liquidator(s) and trustee
  • Instructions for the management and distribution of your assets – which may include an immediate distribution to your beneficiaries and/or the creation of a testamentary trust(s) to allow for a distribution at a later date
  • The naming of a guardian for your minor children (referred to as a tutor in Quebec)
  • Instructions to minimize income taxes, if possible
  • Wishes regarding the burial

An executor will take on the responsibility of managing your affairs. You may name more than one executor to split the duties and decision making however this can cause conflict if they disagree resulting in a longer estate settlement. And like a POA, you may also name a professional (i.e., lawyer or trust company) as your executor.

Having a valid Will is even more important for common law partners as everything won’t be left to the surviving partner without one. For example, with a legally married couple if there is no Will, the surviving spouse is left to inherit the property. But that isn’t the case if you’re a common law couple. In this situation the property would be left to the children or other relatives according to the intestacy rules.

Final Arrangements

Though not totally necessary, it can still be helpful to add information about your final arrangements. This can include details about your funeral and even final resting place. This can give great comfort to your loved ones knowing that you were buried according to your stated desires and preferences.

When planning your final arrangements, you have two payment options:

  • Pre-plan your funeral and have the costs taken out of the estate after you pass
  • Or pre-pay for the costs, to find out more about your options when pre-paying for your funeral visit Government of Ontario.

Having an estate plan will ensure that your money and belongings are being distributed how you’d like. Not only does it give you the peace of mind knowing your wishes will be carried out properly but is one of the best gifts you can leave behind to your loved ones. Your accountant, lawyer, and Advisor will be your best tools during this process and can help you plan an estate that you feel good about. Book an appointment with one of our expert Advisors to start today.


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