Financial Planning for GRG: Wills and Estates

GRG Financial Strategies Workshop Series August to October 2012. 

We have now completed our Financial Strategies Workshops in the Lower Mainland  and there are 2 more slated for the Island: one in Victoria and the other in Nanaimo. Those details will be out soon. For those of you who have Facebook, please “like” us so that you get our notices.

I have to say the turnout has not been spectacular for the series so far but the information is very useful and the presenters were very accommodating. We will try to get the highlights out to you as I know there have been lots of questions and emails from those who could not attend. I attended the one on wills and estates and I plan to write something a bit more organized (when I find some spare time). The presenter was lawyer Jack Micner from Richmond and he was a great volunteer provided for us through the People’s Law School. You can check out his website at www.WillPowerLaw.com.  

Those of you who know me know I am a senior too, so all that I learned was very useful personally. It was good to sit with Jack and talk about the importance of thinking, talking and planning about and for what we want to happen when we die. Not an easy thing to do in many cultures but certainly very wise. I know my grown up kids don’t like it when I bring up the inevitable and we are working on finding ways to have those important discussions. 

Here are some tips and suggestions from Jack in planning for our estates…no matter how large or small. I will do my best to get it right and still, remember, you always need to check facts to make sure. A lawyer who is a specialist in wills and estates can be an excellent resource and worth the investment if you can afford it. There is much you can do yourself as well.

·         If you have RRSPs (and a spouse) make your spouse the beneficiary, not your children or grandchildren, then the money won’t be taxed when you die.

·         If you own property, make sure both spouses are on the title. If the survivor is not on the title then the property is subject to probate and related fees.

·         Consider life insurance especially if it is low cost and requires no medical, even if for a small amount.

·         Invest in RESPs for grandchildren. The Federal Government matches the investment to a certain amount and the matching is greater for low income families.

·         When writing a will we need to think about the different needs of each beneficiary. Consider trusts for children or grandchildren with disabilities. Also think about who will need more help after you are gone if there is more than one child and health or ability are factors.

·         Wills: Make one!

·         Appoint a guardian and if  you have not adopted your grandchild, explain in your will, who you want as guardian and why.

·         When choosing a guardian, think of someone you respect, with children and who lives close by if at all possible.

·         Never have the guardian and executor be the same person

·         If you don’t know anyone to be the executor consider someone at your bank or an accountant. You want someone with money skills who is trustworthy and fair.

·         If you have stocks, put them in both spouse’s names

·         Learn all you need to do to prevent the costly and slow process of probate.

·         Plan for your own incapacity when you are well. (Do it now.)

·         Learn about Power of Attorney documents as they provide great power to the person with the power. Do your homework and make sure there is 100% trust. Don’t broadcast who has your power of attorney or where the document is kept.

·         Representation agreements are now only for health care issues. Useful to have in place before any emergency arises so that everyone knows your wishes. Keep copies in many places – e.g. in your purse, glove compartment, with strata manager, with a neighbour.

·         Make sure all your family members know your wishes in the event that you do become incapacitated and include the wishes in the representation agreement

 There was so much more that Jack talked about and I hope I have done his presentation justice to some extent.  The bottom line is plan now and seek out sound advice and accurate legal information from reliable sources. A small investment of time and dollars now can prevent unnecessary expense and grief in the future. And even if you have no dollars to spare, planning is still wise.

Check out the People’s Law School http://www.publiclegaled.bc.ca/publications and go to their free “store” to order excellent booklets on all the topics above and more. If you Google Wills and Estate Planning Resources BC you will find lots of additional information. 

Hope this helps a little. Watch for more write ups and related resources soon.

 Carol Ross