I can’t stress the important of reviewing your estate plan on a regular basis, especially after any changes to your personal circumstances. Here are some questions you should ask yourself.
Have you got divorced or re-married? Depending on your province of residence, divorce may affect the provisions of your will, but separation has no impact. Also depending on your province, marriage may revoke your will unless it was made in contemplation of marriage.
Did you recently have or adopt a child? You should appoint a guardian for minor children in the event of your premature demise. This appointment may be temporary, so check the provincial laws regarding this.
Did you become a grandparent? If yes, do you want the grandchild to receive a benefit under your will? This could be by way of a primary beneficiary or perhaps you want to add grandchildren as contingent beneficiaries, who would benefit only in the event the parent predeceases the testator.
Has there been a death in the family? If you had made a gift in your will, and your named beneficiary dies before the testator does, unless you specify an alternate beneficiary, the gift may lapse. Or, depending on the relationship of the beneficiary to the testator, the gift may be subject to anti-lapse rules that dictate to whom a gift should be paid in the event the beneficiary predeceases the testator.
Have you moved? Even a local move may impact your estate if the property has been specifically identified in your will, or if the named executor is no longer conveniently located. Also, because most estate laws are provincial, a move across provinces could affect the terms of the will.
Is there significant changes in your finances? A change in fortune for the better may allow you to give more to charity, or get tax-efficient planning. If you have purchased real property or assets outside of Canada, you may need to consider multiple wills. You should maintain an up-to-date asset list to assist with estate plan reviews, and provide a starting point for executors.
Any change to your beneficiaries? Named beneficiaries of your insurance policies and registered products such as RRSP need to be reviewed to ensure they are current. Should your ex-spouse still be beneficiary of the policy? Also make sure persons you have named as beneficiaries don’t conflict with any designations you have in your will.
Any changes to your POAs? When reviewing Power Of Attorneys, representation agreements or personal directives you should consider including instructions on such matters as end of life care.
Are your personal representatives still appropriate? Are all the people you have named as executors, trustees and attorneys still willing and able to act? Does your estate now warrant a professional executor or more skilled individuals?
Have you added more digital assets? Digital assets today represent a growing share of many estates, so you should provide your executors with detailed instructions on how to deal with these unique assets on your death.
Out-of-date wills can be ticking time bombs ready to tear families apart, so a proper estate plan should always include a review of your wills. If you don’t have a will, it leaves it up to the province to allocate the distribution of your estate!
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you should update your estate plan with your financial and legal advisor team.
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