The topic of estate planning usually conjures up thoughts of wealthy people with complicated situations. But if you own any kind of property (a house, car, registered retirement savings plan, life insurance) then you have an estate and as a result, you should also have a plan.
It doesn’t really matter the value of your house, car, RRSP, or life insurance policy, and it’s amazing, especially with life insurance, what that number can add up to, so sometimes people who have very modest incomes can have estates of a half-million or a million dollars.
We recommend that every person keep a record of all your assets, make sure that you have your property titled correctly, and also make sure that you have the beneficiary arrangements set up properly, especially life insurance through work which many times gets overlooked, and in the event of marriage, a divorce, or the death of a beneficiary those don’t get changed.
How your property (such as a house and car) should be titled depends on your marital situation, but typically married couples want to have property titled joint with right of survivorship, so it’s important to check your deed to see if your home is titled this way. For your car, you may want it titled in both names so it will make it easier for it to pass to the other person in the event of a death. For bank accounts, you can have a beneficiary designation to transfer on death or payable on death. Although sometimes you can’t avoid probate, life insurance and other registered products such as RRSP’s with beneficiary designations will pass by contract. If property is titled in just your name, then it will have to go through probate.
Documents that are important to have regardless of your estate size: (1) a will is the first document that you need and a will is your opportunity to designate who gets your property; (2) a continuing power of attorney for property is the next important document and this document gives someone the right to make financial decisions for you if you are incapacitated or from a convenience perspective; for example, you could be traveling or out of the country and maybe the cell phone provider needs to be changed or your spouse needs to make a financial transaction – with a power of attorney for property he or she will be able to do that; (3) another important document is the power of attorney for care and this document gives someone the authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.
We recommend that all of these important documents be kept in an organizational binder or envelope, including birth certificate, marriage license, divorce decree, passport, passwords, insurance papers, legal documents that we all have to keep up with, and it’s all located in one binder or envelope so that in the event of an emergency, such as a fire, you know where that is and can grab it and run out the door. We recommend that you put it in a fireproof safe at home or a bank security box.
The Law Office of Robert Molinari can help draft your will, power of attorney for property, and power of attorney for care. Start now with a free consultation.