Estate planning in 6 easy steps

Any time you go through a life event that involves making big choices and financial decisions, it's a good indicator that it's time to start planning.

Adèle Manseau | Desjardins Group

You're probably not going to live forever. That's where an estate plan comes in handy--just in case you don't! 

It may seem daunting, but estate planning isn't as complicated as you might think. It's all a matter of priorities. 

Whether or not you're married or have kids, creating an estate plan is the only way to guarantee what happens to your money after you die. The better your plan, the less complicated it will be for your loved ones to settle your estate. 

Any time you go through a life event that involves making big choices and financial decisions, it's a good indicator that it's time to start planning (or time to update your plan).   For example: 
. Getting married
. Having kids
. Buying a house
. Getting separated
. Blending families

Step 1: Documentation
Draw up an inventory of your assets and locate all your legal documents (bank accounts, RRSPs, insurance policies, income tax returns, marriage certificate, titles, etc.).

Step 2: Your assets
Complete an estate valuation with the help of a specialist to get an overview of what your estate is worth. 

Step 3: Taxes 
Maximize the value of what you can leave behind. A little advance planning can pay off big in terms of reducing your estate's tax bill.

Step 4: Your will
Draw up your will to put your wishes in writing. This is where you decide what you want to leave behind and to whom. 

Step 5:  Your finances
Consider drawing up a continuing power of attorney for property1 and a power of attorney for personal care2. This is a legal document that provides instructions for how to take care of you, your assets and your finances if something happens and you can't look after your own affairs.

Step 6: Special situations 
Some situations require extra planning and protection: if you have young children, kids from a previous marriage, or a family member who is disabled or dependent. In some cases, you might want to think about setting up a testamentary trust.

Read facts about Quebec residents

1 A Continuing Power of Attorney for Property is a legal document in which a person gives someone else the legal authority to make decisions about their finances. The person who is named as the attorney does not have to be a lawyer. The power of attorney is called "continuing" because it can be used after the person who gave it is no longer mentally capable to make the financial decisions themselves. Some people use the word "durable" which means the same as"continuing". Source: Ministry of the Attorney General - Ontario

2 A Power of Attorney for Personal Care is a legal document in which one person gives another person the authority to make personal care decisions on their behalf if they become mentally incapable. Personal care includes health care, nutrition, shelter, clothing, hygiene, and safety. Source: Ministry of the Attorney General - Ontario

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