This blog is brought to you by Fatima Husnain, Student-at-Law, at Fasken
With the end of the year approaching, it is now a good time to ensure that your affairs are in order. We know this is a busy time of the year, but these few items can help protect you and your loved ones from any unforeseen circumstances in the new year. Below is a list of 10 items that you should consider leading into the new year.
- Review Your Insurance Coverage. Insurance coverage is important to protect you in the case of unforeseen circumstance. The end of the year is a good time to review your insurance policies including protection for your home, car, life, health and business for any expiry dates and update them if you have had a change in circumstances. This will ensure you are adequately protected in the new year. Some insurances companies also send a letter at the end of the year with a summary of your policy. This is an opportunity to take a look and ensure that everything in your policy is as you expect it to be.
- Review Your Beneficiaries. A lot can happen in a year, you may have gotten married, divorced, had additional children or grandchildren. You likely have beneficiaries listed in your Will, on your insurance policies, your bank accounts or other financial assets. Review these documents and ensure that the listed beneficiaries still align with your wishes and current family circumstances.
- Take an Inventory of Your Assets. Did you purchase, inherit or sell any large assets this year, such as a house or a car? If so, make sure your estate plan has accurate information with regard to your assets and their ownership. You should also take photographs of any major assets that you have as proof in case of circumstances such as theft.
- Review Your Power of Attorney. If you have an attorney for personal care or an attorney for property or both (the “Attorney”), consider if your Attorney is still willing and capable to be your Attorney. If your Attorney has had a change in circumstances or you no longer wish for them to be your Attorney, now is a good time to amend your powers of attorney for personal care and property accordingly.
- Check for Year End Estate Planning Obligations. Some family trusts or other estate planning mechanisms may require annual payments for interest or otherwise soon after the end of the year for tax purposes. By reviewing your estate planning requirements you can set up payments to avoid any tax repercussions that you could have mitigated before the end of the year.
- Organize Your Documents and Records for 2019. Just as quickly as 2019 passed by, tax season will quickly be upon us. It is now a good time to gather all of your documents and records. You should determine what documents need to be retained for tax season and what documents can be shredded. This is also an opportunity to make a list of the tax related documents you expect to receive in the new year and note any deficiencies prior to the tax deadline.
- Registered Retirement Savings Plan. You have a few months to organize your finances to put funds into your RRSP before the deadline. However, now is a great time to evaluate how much money to keep aside to potentially top up your RRSP contributions for the tax year and maximize your tax benefits. By knowing the amount of money you would like to deposit into your RRSP, you can decide how to allocate any lump sum payments you receive, such as a bonus.
- Mortgage and Other Debts. Mortgage companies often send statements outlining your debt repayment over the past year. It is beneficial to check these statements and ensure that your debt repayment is progressing as you desire. You can then make lump sum payments or adjust your ongoing monthly payments to align with your current debt repayment goals.
- Stocks and Investments. Not only should you review your debts, you should review your equity. The end of the year is a great time to review your portfolio and potentially diversify, balance, or drop any investments that did not provide gains as expected. This is an opportunity to adjust your financial portfolio overall based on your financial goals and the risk you are now comfortable with going into the new year.
- Health. The end of the year is a good time to go for your annual physical. This can give you some indication of any potential issues that may arise in the future or make you aware of any current changes in circumstances. If you foresee any health problems to arise in the future, you can pre-emptively increase your insurance coverage as necessary. If you find yourself facing any current health difficulties you can consider appointing a power of attorney for personal care and property so you can have peace of mind going into the new year.