Skip to main content
Select Image

How do I… plan my estate management

How to plan your own estate

In this article we’ll answer some of the most common questions around estate planning in BC and Canada including:

  • Should real estate be part of my retirement plan?

  • How do I update my estate plan?

  • What documents should be in my estate plan?

  • What questions should I ask my estate planning attorney?

  • When should I update my estate plan?

Estate planning basics

  • Estate: this includes everything you own! From your home to your favourite chair

  • Will: a document where you note down who gets what and when

  • Beneficiary: a person who'll receive something from your estate

  • Executor: a trusted someone who ensures your wishes are followed

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

The most important thing on your estate planning checklist is a valid, up-to-date, legal will. If you pass away without a will in Canada, the government will distribute your estate according to BC 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. Many do-it-yourself will kits can leave details open to legal interpretation. We recommend working with an estate planning lawyer to write your will. This way you can be sure it is a legally binding document with no errors.

When the person who passes away was a financial provider, you may be worried about how the loss of income will affect you and your family. A lawyer will help you consider important things like life insurance, who will inherit any savings or retirement accounts, and jointly owned assets or property. If no recipients of the assets are named, there are no guarantees where they will end up. Working with an estate lawyer will make sure all your bases are covered. Here’s what that step-by-step process might look like:

1. Write a will, but don’t "will" it away

Note down your assets and decide who gets them and consider guardians for young children. If all that paperwork isn’t your cup of tea, having a lawyer can be a huge help.

2. Appoint a power of attorney (POA)

This isn't a superhero title! It’s a person who’ll make decisions for you if you can't. There are two main types of powers of POAs; a financial POA will handle your money matters and a health POA makes health decisions for you.

3. Remember the taxes

Canada doesn't have an estate tax, but there might be others (like income tax) to consider. Understanding taxes can save your beneficiaries some future head-scratching.

4. Ensure your beneficiary designations are up-to-date

If you have insurance policies or retirement accounts, they might have beneficiaries. Make sure these designations align with your will. 

5. Store your documents safely

Your estate plan isn’t a treasure, but it should be treated like one! Store copies in safe places and let your executor know where they are.

5 important things you can do with a Canadian 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 executing your estate (your loved ones will appreciate your care and foresight after you have passed away)

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.

Select Image
Select Image

While you’re writing your will, decide how you’ll 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’ll 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’ll be the recipients 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.

Select Image

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 

5 final 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 advisor 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.

How to manage a loved one’s estate

After a loved one passes, there are a number of steps you'll need to take to manage the estate

But first, take the time to grieve and be aware that you don't have to grieve alone. If you need more help and support than you're able to get from your immediate family and friends, there are counselling services available in most communities to help you through the grieving process.

Select Image

Help when you need it

We can provide estate processing services and refer you to other resources to facilitate managing an estate. Our partner, Concentra Trust, offers expert help to guide you through the duties, responsibilities, and requirements of being an executor.

Select Image

How will the loss of income affect your family? Know what to check for

Hopefully the deceased has left a valid, up to date will and named an executor. If so, the most important first step is to contact the executor and notify them. If there is no will—or in the event that you've been named executor—contact a lawyer as soon as possible. 

If the deceased was a key provider, you may be worried about how the loss of income will affect you and your family. Is there life insurance? Who are the listed beneficiaries of RRSPs and RRIFs? What about jointly held property and other assets? If no beneficiaries are named, these assets may simply become part of the estate.

There are other resources to help you get through this

With the loss of a loved one, you may feel that you're alone. The fact is your community is full of people and organizations that offer help and support. From executing a will to finding non-profit organizations that can counsel the bereaved, Gulf & Fraser can help you find the resources that will get you through this difficult time.

Need help planning or managing an estate?

We’ve partnered with experts who can help you manage everything from wills, trusts, and powers of attorney to estate administration and succession planning.

Select Image

Get advice on the go

Life gets busy, but don't let that stop you achieving your goals. Whether you’ve got $50 or $50,000, we want to help power your possible – and we'll come to you to do it.

Select Image

Let’s keep boosting your estate planning know-how

The complete guide to settling an estate

Gain a deeper understanding of estate administration so you can be better prepared as you work through the process.