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Whom To Inform About Your Estate Plan

You’ve gone through the process of executing your Will(s), Continuing Power of Attorney for Property and Power of Attorney for Personal Care… now what? This blog looks at some of the considerations after you have signed your key estate planning documents.

Storage

One of the key considerations is where to store your original estate planning documents. We discussed this in our recent blog, “Where to store your original Will and Powers of Attorney”.

Who To Inform

You should advise your executor(s) and attorney(s) for property and for personal care about the existence of these documents and where they are stored. They do not necessarily need to receive copies or review them, but at a minimum your executor(s) and attorney(s) should be aware of the existence of these documents and that they have been appointed to act in these key decision-making roles.

If applicable, you should also advise any person(s) you have appointed to have decision-making responsibility with respect to any minor children (formerly referred to as custody) to confirm he, she or they are comfortable with and willing to accept this appointment.

You may also consider the extent it is advisable to discuss your succession planning, or certain aspects of it, with your immediate family. This open communication may be especially important where all of your children are not treated equally for whatever reason in decision-making roles, as beneficiaries of your estate, or as recipients of certain assets. The reasoning for these types of decisions can be set out in a Letter of Wishes, but depending on each family situation and family dynamics, open communication with family members can be beneficial as well.

Our recent blog, “A Letter of Wishes: When Your Trustee Is Also a Genie” discusses the uses of Letters of Wishes in your estate plan.

If there’s an active business, for example, and you have certain expectations or hopes for how it will continue to operate, it’s a good idea to communicate these thoughts. Additionally, if philanthropy is an integral part of your life and a component of your estate plan, you can discuss your charitable objectives with your children to illustrate the importance and involve your children in your family’s giving conversation.

There may be certain information that you wish to pass along to your executor(s) and attorney(s). For example, if you have any wishes with respect to funeral and burial or cremation, let your executor(s) know as it is their responsibility to make the arrangements. This can also be included in your Will(s) or set out in a Letter of Wishes.

Record Keeping

One of the executor’s main roles is to gather in all assets of the estate. In order to help the executor manage this task, it’s a good idea to keep records and to gather critical information to ensure all assets are accounted for, including:

  • Important contacts, such as family members and key professionals, including doctors, accountants, lawyers, and investment advisors;
  • A list of your assets, such as bank and investment accounts, retirement, pension and other plans, insurance, real estate, personal effects, including art, jewelry and other valuables and collectibles;
  • A list of your liabilities, such as mortgages, loans, lines of credit and credit cards; and
  • Passwords to your computer, your cell phone, online accounts, and any digital accounts (stored safely).

Without critical information easily accessible, your family members and key decision-makers can be left in the dark during an emotionally challenging time.

Review & Update

It’s also advisable to periodically review your Will(s) and Powers of Attorney to ensure they are up to date and reflect your current intentions.

Your circumstances may change which necessitate changes to your estate plan, including:

  • Changes in family dynamics, such as: births or deaths, marriage, separation or divorce;
  • Whether the person(s) appointed as key decision-makers still reflect who you would want to act in such roles and whether the person(s) appointed are still able to serve in these roles; and
  • If your financial situation has changed significantly.

Even after you have executed your estate planning documents and have walked out of your lawyer’s office or, in our virtual world, exited your Zoom meeting, as you will have seen, there may be a few more tasks on your to-do list before filing your documents away!

— Marly Peikes

The comments offered in this article are meant to be general in nature, are limited to the law of Ontario, Canada, and are not intended to provide legal or tax advice on any individual situation. Before taking any action involving your individual situation, you should seek legal advice to ensure it is appropriate to your personal circumstances.
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