This Blog was written by: Anne McFarlane, Estate and Trust Consultant, Scotia Wealth Management
I have always loved celebrating the New Year. On top of the fancy attire, sparkly decorations, and fizzy drinks, it’s a time of reflection and reinvention. To think back to what went well in the year prior and decide how our next rotation around the Sun will look.
Given how 2020 treated us (don’t worry – this blog is NOT about that!), my focus this New Year’s Eve is on what’s to come.
Nobel Prize winner George Bernard Shaw once said “Life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself.” It’s my favourite quote; one that has historically been on my favourite coffee mug. That is, until 2020 stole that away in a freak dropped-coffee accident (I didn’t cry over the spilled coffee, but almost did over the broken mug).
Many of us will make resolutions this week in an effort to “create ourselves”; some to stick to a budget, exercise more, or read more books. These are all great goals, but what about a resolution to take care of ourselves, our loved ones, and our wealth through careful, thoughtful estate planning?
This can seem daunting, complicated, and overwhelming. Those of us in the field often forget just how much of a struggle it can be when it’s not your day-to-day life. Below is the list of some ways you can gently ease yourself into creating your estate plan this year:
- If you have them, review your current documents (Wills, Powers of Attorney, Trust Documents and Healthcare Directives). Read them slowly and carefully while enjoying a mug of coffee or tea. For this exercise, I suggest you make a photocopy and highlight, circle, or make notes on the sections you need to clarify or change. Note: do NOT write on your original documents!
- Make a list of the people or charities to whom you would like to leave a gift. It’s okay if you’re not sure how much. Consider the purpose of the gift; is it to significantly impact their life, or a small gift to remember you by?
- Make a list of your most prized possessions. This can include family heirlooms, jewelry, and even your pets. If something unexpected happened to you, how would you want to see these items cared for? Write your thoughts down, in no particular order.
- Call your financial advisor to confirm if your registered accounts such as RRSPs, RRIFS, TFSAs, etc. have named beneficiaries. Make note of this to share with your lawyer.
- Call your life insurance company to confirm if your policies have named beneficiaries. Make note of this to share with your lawyer.
- Think about your wishes for your funeral. Do you have specific religious requirements that should be honoured? Do you want specific songs played or photos displayed? Do you want a service at all? There are no right or wrong answers; just focus on what feels right to you.
- Schedule a phone or video call with members of your trusted inner circle to bounce ideas off them and get feedback or input about your estate planning ideas. This can include family, friends, advisors, care providers, etc. If you aren’t comfortable sharing details, just speak in broad terms.
- Are there certain parts of your estate planning that trouble you or keep you up at night? Write these down, and don’t be afraid to share them with your advisors. Trust me, we love questions!
- If you don’t have a lawyer, do some research! Perhaps your loved ones have a lawyer with whom they had a great experience. If not, spend some time (with another warm beverage?) looking up some local firms/lawyers and reviewing what their specialty is.
Once you have done some (or all) of the above steps, it’s time to put the plan in motion. We recommend you speak with your lawyer to discuss next steps.
I hope you will join me in taking the chance to “create yourself” this New Year. I certainly hope this will include either beginning, reviewing, or renewing your estate plan. I know it will for me; along with taking some super glue to my favourite inspirational mug.