Estate Planning in Ontario: A Checklist of Things to Consider

Having a will and estate plan prepared in advance can save you and your loved ones a lot of hassle after you pass on. The Government of Canada offers a free estate planning checklist online. However, there are many things to consider when preparing an estate plan and this is something an experienced wills and estate lawyer can assist with. For your convenience we have prepared a checklist for you but we must emphasize this is not an exhaustive list of things to consider and is instead intended to be a rudimentary checklist. We recommend you consult with one of our Richmond Hill wills and estates lawyers or estate litigation lawyers for all your estate planning needs.

  • Getting Started: Itemize Your Assets and Liabilities and Get Your Will In Order

The first item on your estate planning checklist is to get your will in order. If an individual passes on without having a will, their assets could be distributed according to provincial legislation. The costs associated with settling your estate in a situation like this are also higher than if you had prepared a will in advance. Before preparing your will, make an itemized list of all your assets and liabilities and remember to consider tax positions on the disposition of all your assets. In your itemized list – we recommend you also consider who your beneficiaries will be for all assets and accounts including your RRSPs, RRIFs, RESPs, DPSPs, pension plans and any life insurance policies you may have.

  • Appoint Representatives

In an effort to minimize conflicts after you pass on – we recommend you appoint representatives, powers of attorney, executors and trustees for your estate and be very thoughtful in who you appoint for these roles. Firstly, speak with your preferred representatives and obtain their consent to make sure they are okay with being your representatives after you pass on. We recommend your representatives are people who you trust to make decisions on your behalf as well as execute your last wishes in the manner that you desire. When choosing guardians for children – remember that your selected guardians and trustees may have duties until the children reach 18 years of age.

  • Trusts

Trusts can be a great way for providing income for your family and loved ones down the road. Whether you set up a testamentary trust (established after you pass on) or a inter vivos trust (set up while you’re alive) – they don’t necessarily fit every situation. We recommend you speak with a wills and estates lawyer to see which option fits your unique situation. Trusts are also used to transfer assets and ensure your beneficiaries are cared for and there are some tax implications to consider as well. This is another reason we recommend you obtain legal guidance from a wills and estates lawyer to help make this decision.

  • Jointly Owned Assets

Joint ownerships can be a great way to minimize probate fees and are typically considered a popular estate-planning strategy. While jointly-owned assets may not work for everyone – in situations where assets are registered jointly with an adult child, transfer of ownerships and assets can be done more easily. However, there are negative drawbacks to this approach as well and we recommend you consult with a wills and estates lawyer to ensure this approach works for you.

  • US assets

If you own property or assets in the US and you are Canadian – it is important to note here that upon your passing, the US imposes a tax on estates. Your estate planning lawyer will guide you on the best approach to deal with your US assets under the auspices of the American estate tax treatment. A tax lawyer may also be of assistance in this process as well.

  • Life Insurance

There are many life insurance providers who have tax-free death benefits. Purchasing life insurance may be of value if the death benefits can be distributed after you pass on in a tax-free manner. This is something your estate planning lawyer can give you advice on as well.

  • Make Arrangements for Your Funeral

When loved ones pass away – it can be an emotional time for those who are left with the responsibility of making funeral arrangements. In an effort to minimize this burden on your loved ones – our estate planning lawyers recommend you plan your funeral in advance and put aside money for the funeral arrangements.  

  • Make Arrangements in Case You Are Incapacitated to Make Decisions

Another thing to consider is to appoint representative(s) to make decisions on your behalf in the event you are incapacitated and cannot make decision for yourself. Ensure the person(s) you appoint are people you trust implicitly to make decisions in your best interests.

  • Hire an Estate Planning Lawyer

We have seen many instances where wills get challenged because an individuals’ last will was not detailed enough or done incorrectly. When preparing your last will and testament, powers of attorney or estate plan – make sure you consult with an experienced estate planning lawyer. You have much to gain from the experience of a trusted wills and estates lawyer.

Speak with our Richmond Hill estate planning and wills and estates lawyers today

Book a consultation with our Richmond Hills wills and estates lawyer today by dialing 905-884-9242 today to address your estate planning needs. Our wills and estates lawyers are happy to serve clients in Richmond Hill, Ontario as well as the Greater Toronto Area with all their wills and estates needs.

Disclaimer: Please be advised that this blog is intended to act as a general overview on a legal topic and does not constitute legal advice. Each legal issue is independent and unique and in order to get qualified legal advice we recommend you consult with a Richmond Hill estate planning lawyer on this topic. Please note that lawyer-client relationships are only established after you have signed a retainer agreement with our firm.