For many Canadians, the holiday season is about spending time with loved ones. As you gather together to celebrate the year and look ahead, take a few minutes to talk to your family about personal and estate planning.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Decorations are everywhere. There are cookies to bake, parties to attend and gifts to buy. It’s a busy time of year, but we always make an extra effort to spend time with people we care about. At our home, we enjoy catching up. We talk about the year that was and share our plans for the new one. As you look forward, think about preparing a Will. It might already be on your to-do list; it might not. Either way, it’s something that’s easy to put off.
Why create a Will?
Personal and estate planning documents—Wills, powers of attorney, representation agreements—give your loved ones assurance that your wishes are being carried out.
Given all the stress and sadness that accompany a death in the family, a Will can help ease your family’s burden by eliminating a lot of red tape and bureaucratic complications.
What’s the best way to bring up this sensitive topic?
To plan properly, you need to talk to your partner and the people who will have a role in your Will (more on that later).
Nobody wants to stifle the holiday spirit by talking about personal and estate planning. Yet since everyone is together, it’s an ideal time to talk to your loved ones.
It’s best to take them aside. Start by telling them that you are being proactive. Make it clear that you’re not sick or dying. Tell them you care about them, and you want to relieve them of as much extra paperwork and administration as you can. Then ask them if they’d be willing to be a part of your Will.
Here are a few examples of the roles you might need loved ones to take on:
A guardian for your minor children
If you have children younger than 19, you need to appoint someone to care for them if both you and your partner die. The guardian takes full responsibility of your minor children, with the same rights and responsibilities as a parent.
One person (not a couple) and I recommend also designating a back-up alternate guardian. If you leave money in your estate to your children, the guardian receives the money to use on behalf of your children.
It’s okay to appoint a guardian who lives in a different country. Just make sure you also name a temporary guardian, someone who lives within driving distance. You wouldn’t want your kids being cared for by strangers after losing both parents, even if it’s just for a couple of hours.
An executor for your Will
Think about who would be the best person to carry out your wishes. That’s the executor: the person who deals with administrating your estate and making sure your wishes are fulfilled.
Generally, couples appoint each other as executors and also choose an alternate. An adult child or another beneficiary is usually a good option.
Selecting an executor can be difficult, especially if you have more than one suitable option. Choose a person who is reliable and organized. And don’t make an emotional decision. Most people don’t feel left out if they haven’t been assigned a role—most appreciate not having to take on the extra work.
There are tax benefits to choosing a Canadian resident as your executor, but it’s also possible to select someone who lives outside Canada.
Peace of mind
With BC’s Will legislation, you can prepare your documents and not have to worry about updating them to account for minor life changes. By working with a notary, you can ensure that your Will is prepared correctly to reflect your needs, so you and your family can have confidence that your affairs are in order.
Holiday gatherings can provide an opportunity to talk to the people involved in your personal and estate planning. After you and partner have decided who would be an ideal guardian and executor, take the time to meet with your family and bring them into the discussion.
If you decide to leave money to your nieces and nephews instead of your siblings, something that is becoming more common these days, tell your siblings privately.
Don’t be shy about contacting a legal professional—before or after you’ve talked to your family. We’re here to help! We can answer your questions and guide you through the process of creating a Will. Book an appointment today and give your family peace of mind this holiday season.
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