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Why is it important to have a will and estate plan?

Married or single, writing a will is your first step in estate planning.   

The most important part of your estate plan is a valid, up-to-date, legal will. If you pass away without a will, the government will distribute your estate in accordance with provincial law. Having a will in place can ensure your wishes are fulfilled.

The best and safest way to create a will is to work with an expert, as many do-it-yourself will packages and will kits can leave details open to legal interpretation. We recommend that you work with a lawyer to write your will. That way you can be sure it is a legal document and you can feel confident it has no errors.

5 important things you can do with a will:

  1. Appoint someone to deal with everything when you pass away
  2. Appoint a guardian for your children
  3. Select who you want to inherit your assets
  4. Set up your estate to take advantage of tax savings
  5. Reduce the cost of administering your estate (your loved ones will appreciate your care and foresight after you have passed away)

How to get started making your will

  1. Complete a Will Instructions Questionnaire
  2. Meet with a Gulf & Fraser expert to get help gathering the information you'll need and get prepared to speak with a lawyer
  3. Make an appointment with a lawyer to write your legal will

Gulf & Fraser refers members who need a will to Stuart, Aulinger and Company, based in Vancouver, BC. They have a Will Instructions Questionnaire that you can fill out before you meet with them, to save time and ensure you’ve thought everything through. 

Start making your will today.

Download our recommended Will Instructions Questionnaire to get started organizing the information that you will record in the legal document.

Keep your will up to date.

You are continually going through changes in your life and sometimes your circumstances may require that you make changes in your will.

Here’s when you should work with a professional advisor to update your will:

  1. As you acquire new assets
  2. When you marry (your existing will becomes invalid)
  3. When you have a child 

While you are writing your will, decide how you will distribute your estate.

Distributing your estate is more complicated than simply dividing things among your heirs. Here’s what you need to think about when you’re deciding how to distribute your assets and other property:

  • Who you’ll distribute your assets to
  • Who will receive your pension
  • Who you’ll name for your investments, stocks and bonds
  • What will happen with your real estate and personal property
  • Which assets you own jointly – you’ll need to make a list of these
  • Who will be the beneficiaries of your RRSPs and insurance policies

If this sounds overwhelming to you, we encourage you to start writing down what you DO know in this Will Instructions Questionnaire. Call us at 604-419-8888 if you need help.

Review your assets and liabilities.

Have a close look at what you owe and what you own. Consider these three strategies to help get your finances in order:

  1. Maximize the value of your assets
  2. Protect your assets as much as possible from taxation
  3. Make sure you have enough liquid assets to cover your liabilities (credit card debt, lines of credit, etc.)

Here are two ways to help protect your assets from taxation:

  1. Gifting assets before your death
  2. Establishing a trust

Keep in mind that both strategies can be complicated by the individual tax circumstances of your survivors.

5 tips for making an estate plan

  1. Discuss your estate plan with your loved ones now. This will help your family avoid conflicts after you have passed away.
  2. Use strategies to help you plan your estate, such as setting up joint ownership of assets, making a will, naming beneficiaries, and setting up a trust. Each strategy has its pros and cons; it’s important to speak with your financial planner to determine the best tools to use.
  3. Use this Will Instructions Questionnaire to get your information organized. This will set you up for success when you are ready to work with a lawyer to write your will.
  4. Make a will, even if you don’t have children – otherwise the government will determine what happens to your estate.
  5. Set up a trust to manage how your assets will be passed to a minor or disabled beneficiary, to protect your assets from creditors, or to reduce taxes.

We understand that no one looks forward to planning their estate. We also know how important it is to you and your family that it's done right so we are here to help you through this process.


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What are your plans for your estate?

We’ve been helping people in BC realize their financial wellness and prepare for their futures for more than 80 years. Get started with a Gulf & Fraser expert and a visit to any of our credit union branches. 

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