Does your estate plan need a touch up?
If you have a will, you’re one of a minority of Canadians who have taken that crucial step in the estate planning process. A recent survey revealed that 51 per cent of adult Canadians don’t have a will – and only 35 per cent say that they have a will that’s up-to-date.
So, if you have one, you’re ahead of the game – and that’s great news. But what about the up-to-date part? In the same way a paint job on your home needs touching up after a few years, your will and estate plan needs a regular review as well. The issue with your estate plan is that, unlike the scratches and chips on your painted walls, the gaps and cracks that form aren’t obvious unless you take the time to review it.
Mind the estate planning gaps
Here are three common estate planning gaps that may have formed without you even realizing it:
1. Location of assets and will aren’t known: A critical part of any estate plan is a list and location of your key assets (such as bank and investment accounts, insurance policies, and the original copy of your will). Yes, assets do indeed go missing. Don’t assume your family knows where to look, especially if any of your financial accounts have changed. Make a list and give it to those who will be handling your estate. And be sure to update the list if there are any account or asset changes.
2. Family members haven’t read your will: At the 2013 Berkshire Hathaway annual general meeting, famed investor Warren Buffet turned estate planner when he was asked a question about his own estate.
“Your children are going to read the will someday … It’s crazy for them to read it after you’re dead for the first time. You’re not in a position to answer questions – unless the Ouija board really works.”
In many cases, family disputes don’t arise until after death, and the element of surprise often plays a big factor. So, make sure you communicate your estate plan to your family during your lifetime. Ouija boards are notoriously unreliable.
3. Your life situation has changed: There are many life changes that should always be reviewed through the lens of your will and estate plan. For example, if one of your adult children becomes divorced, you may need to take steps to ensure that estate assets go to any grandchildren, and not your child’s ex-spouse. Or if you buy a winter getaway, you may need special provisions in your will, or a second will, for property you own outside of Canada.
Time for an estate planning touch up? There’s no better time than now.