A few months ago, it was great to finally catch up on Zoom with my friend Danielle. The pandemic has changed all our routines and I was excited at the time to fill her in on how my writing was going for my new book.
She actually was one of the reasons I decided to do the project.
Danielle understood the importance of having a will and estate planning. With two small children, she had named her longtime friend Rachel as executor, and Rachel knew where the will was kept.
Her assets were to be split with Rachel and her brother who was also going to be guardian. She also had power of attorney in case of incapacity in place.
Danielle wanted to make sure she did not repeat her parents’ mistakes when, as a child, her future was decided in the parking lot of a funeral home.
When Danielle’s father died at age 39, she was only 12. This is where things got complicated. When her dad passed away with no will, Danielle’s grandfather’s estate was not yet settled and her great grandfather’s estate was not yet settled.
So, we’re talking three generations of estates not settled, but the one thing they all had in common is that there was no will.
Danielle’s family was large, so it was decided in the parking lot of the funeral home that one aunt and uncle would take her.
Another aunt and uncle took her brother. Danielle has memories of a happy childhood. She felt she never missed out on anything. She credits her aunt and uncle for making her the strong, confident woman she is today.
Though it was extremely time-consuming and at times painful for them. Since there was no will, the government was in control of the money.
Every time they needed money for her care, they had to go to court and explain what every dollar was being used for.
According to an Angus Reid poll in 2018 said 51% of Canadians do not have, with men more likely to have a will than a woman. Parents of children under 18 are even less likely to have wills, without an estate plan means the government will decide the future of your children.
Now I know that talking about death is not a sexy topic. But the reality is we at some point will die.
You need to decide what do you want the experience to be like for your family. Do you want to leave them stressed, confused and disorganized?
Especially if there are minor children.
Besides choosing who would be your executor, some thought and an agreement has to go into picking a guardian.
Before you have the conversation with a possible guardian, here are 6 questions you need to ask yourself:
- Are they willing to take on the responsibility of being a guardian?
- What is their financial situation? Do you have enough life insurance that will make sure your children won’t be a financial burden on them?
- Where will the children live?
- What are the potential guardian’s values, religion, or political beliefs? (Given today’s climate this might be a sticky issue)
- What are their skills as a parent?
- What is their age and health?
People like to believe that estate planning is just for rich people, actually, it’s an opportunity for people of any age to control who will inherit their money and property, and to decide who can make medical and financial decisions on their behalf if they’re unable to do so themselves.
You need to make a lot of estate-planning decisions. Even young people (single ones too), just starting out, should have some key documents to make their wishes known if anything happens to them.
Since the coronavirus pandemic has become a threat to us all, it has made more people realize the importance of being prepared for the unexpected at any age.
Another reason why estate planning is neglected can be due to cost. Today you have options to get it done and this should not be one them, talk to a lawyer depending on how complex your situation might be it could be a few hundred dollars or more. There are companies such as https://www.willful.co/ who make it easy and affordable to put together a plan.
The biggest dangers and problems that will cause you and your family stress is to have not taken the time to prepare for the unexpected. You don’t have a will and haven’t not done all you can to protect your family.
What you need to do is meet with a lawyer or use an online solution. The important thing is to get it done. Prepare an estate plan, which includes a will that names your chosen guardians. Decide on your health care directives that includes a financial power of attorney.
Let your family know when these important documents are kept.
Do this and you can rest easy knowing you have prepared your family in case an unexpected emergency occurs.
You have had the conversations that need to be had.
Your goal should always be is to leave a legacy for the family, not a legacy and a mess.
David E. Edey is a Certified Executor Advisor (CEA) who has worked in the financial planning industry for more than 35 years in Montreal. He is the author of the bestseller Executor Help – How to Settle an Estate Pick an Executor and Avoid Family Fights. For more information go to www.davidedey.com