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An Introduction to Estate Planning

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An Introduction to Estate Planning

In this article we take a quick look at a few steps that you can take to make sure that you are planning your estate properly.

Here we go again, delving into a topic that a lot of people really don’t like to think about. It’s been said here many times in different articles that no one likes to think about their death. It’s unpleasant thinking about what will happen after you die, so more often than not, people avoid it altogether. The thing is, though, the last time I checked, the mortality rate among human beings remains at 100%. We are all going to die. The other thing that I know is that once you are gone, you cannot speak to your family to clear up any confusion about how you want your estate divided up. Taking the time to make sure that your estate is planned out in a way that reflects your beliefs, values, hopes and dreams for future generations is as important a part of your legacy as what can be provided by any tangible assets that you leave behind. Take the time to make an estate plan that uses foresight to ensure that your wishes can be followed even when you aren’t here to yell, ‘WAIT, that’s NOT what I meant!’. 

Before we begin, this is probably the best time to point out that when we talk about estate planning, we aren’t speaking only to the wealthy. This is a common misgiving about ‘estate planning . Estate planning is not a process that only wealthy people need to go through. It is something that everyone needs to think about. Making sure that while you are living, you have come up with a plan for what you want to have happen when you die and expressing that plan in a clear and concise manner will make things much easier for your loved ones, allowing them time to focus on grieving rather than making decisions for you by guessing as to what you would have wanted. Keep that in mind as we work through a framework for how you can go about the estate planning process.

Now, let’s take a quick look at a few steps that you can take to make sure that you are planning your estate properly.

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In This Article:

Planning Step #1 – Figuring out what you want

Planning Step #2 – Involve your Family

Planning Step #3 – Make Sure you Know What you Have

Planning Step #4 – The Paperwork

Planning Step #5 – Keep your Plan up to date


Estate Planning Step #1 – Figuring out what you want

The first step in any planning process is for you to figure out what your goals are. This extends beyond simply figuring out how you want to split up any monetary assets that you have left behind. Having a clear objective in mind for what you would like the end of your estate planning process to look like will make it easier to make decisions leading toward achieving your goal. If you consider an example, what should your estate plan look like if you are at the point in your life where you have dependent children? Is what happens when you die related purely to monetary decisions, or does it have to do with who will care for them, where they will live, and how they will be supported? In all likelihood, it is the latter, and you need to plan accordingly, not simply have a plan for splitting up your assets.

Estate Planning Step #2 – Involve your Family

Once you have decided what it is that you would like to have happen, you may want to have a discussion with your family at this point to make sure they understand your goals and that they support them as well. As an example of why you should do this, consider a situation where you have a family cottage and multiple children. Your plan may be to leave the cottage in equal shares with all your children. This could stem from the fact that you have many wonderful memories of time spent there as your family grew up, and you want the physical location to be shared by them as their families grow as well. Having a discussion about this may reveal that not all of your children are interested in taking over ownership of the cottage when you pass away. They may face a situation where they couldn’t afford the extra expenses associated with operating a cottage, or maybe you have children that live far away, and they aren’t interested in owning a piece of property that they will get limited use out of. To make your estate plan efficient, you need to know things like this. It can influence how you live your life before you die, as well. If your plan was to leave a piece of property for future generations and you find out that none of them actually want to own it, you could potentially sell it and use the funds to support yourself. Having this type of information from your family makes sure that their plans for the future line up with your goals for your estate.

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Estate Planning Step #3 – Make Sure you Know What you Have

This sounds like a simple process; even if you weren’t here, someone could walk into your house and quickly see what you own. This is not the case, though. Creating a comprehensive list of what you own and what you owe can be a daunting process. It involves listing all of your assets and debts. Bank accounts, investments, property, loans, credit lines, insurance policies, Great Aunt Gertrude’s fine china…..  Overall, this can be a big list. Again, we come down to the idea that you need to list it because you won’t be here to explain to your family that they forgot to deal with that one life insurance policy that your parents bought for you when you were a newborn. No matter what Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg would have us believe (yes, I am dating myself here as a child of the 90s), getting a message to your loved ones once you’re gone is not going to happen. 

Estate Planning Step #4 – The Paperwork

This is where you deal with setting everything into writing. You will need to designate beneficiaries and executors to make sure that your plan is executed in the most efficient way possible. Beneficiary destinations are sometimes easier because these are the people you want to pass along your legacy to. Make sure, though, that you consider different tracks. For example, if one of your beneficiaries predeceases you, how does that get handled? Does their share get split among the remaining beneficiaries, or does it go to the heirs of the original beneficiary? These are all decisions that you need to make during this part of the process. 

Appointing an executor is a decision for you to appoint someone to execute the plans you’ve laid out. Here, you are looking for someone you feel is reliable and will make sure that your plan is carried out in the manner that you want. One note on executor selection is that you should know that your executor can charge a fee to your estate. Typically, this is limited to about 5% of your estate value, and it isn’t a requirement, but you do need to know it is an option.

All of this will need to be laid out in writing, and this is where it can be really helpful to employ a lawyer. You want to make sure that there isn’t anything in your estate plan that violates the laws where you live, allowing for the entire plan to be broken when legal challenges arise. If you choose to write your own will, make sure that you follow the rules for Holograph wills in the province you live in. Again, this reduces the chances that your wishes can be overturned due to legal technicalities.

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Estate Planning Step #5 – Keep your Plan up to date

Your estate plan is a living document. This means that it will change as your situation changes. Perhaps your children have grown up, and now you have grandchildren to consider. People getting married, divorced or passing away all can trigger changes that need to be made in your plan. Make sure that you keep things updated so that if something does happen to you your most current wishes are the ones that are followed.


Estate planning can feel overwhelming. As I mentioned right at the start of this article, no one likes thinking about what happens after they’ve died. Facing your own mortality is hard. Making use of experts in the area can make your life a lot easier because they do this on a regular basis. I remember the first time I sat with a lawyer and made out a will. He asked me about things I had never considered. Who would I like to pass my Air Miles to if I die? Wait, what? Can you do that? My greatest recommendation to anyone is that you need to make sure that you understand what you want to happen and then hire someone to make sure that your plan is legal and that it is done right. Think of all the stress you save yourself, knowing that you don’t have to haunt anyone from the afterlife because they didn’t follow your plan. Ready to secure your legacy? Reach out to James Duncan and the expert team at Life Insurance to create a personalized plan click here to schedule a call.

James Duncan is a Life Insurance Advisor at Life Insurance He can be reached at 877-344-4011.


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