estate organization

Key Elements of Estate Organization

What is Estate Organization?

With an aging population and the enormous transfer of wealth before us comes a new category of planning  called “Estate Organization”. 

Estate organization is a more proactive, dynamic process than traditional estate planning, where an advisor asks if you have a Will and sells you some life insurance.

Within this resource, we discuss the individual components of estate organization, and provide a series of to-dos for organizers that correspond with each component.

Estate organization consists of 8 key elements:

1. Carefully Contemplated Estate Documents 

  • Consisting of a valid Will, Enduring Power(s) of Attorney, Personal Directive, if desired, and Trusts, if needed for minors or other dependents. 
  • Creating these documents requires careful thought about who to appoint as your executors, agents under powers of attorney, guardians, and trustees. 
  • It also requires making decisions about who will receive your assets, after you’re gone, and when.
  • We recommend using an experienced estate lawyer who has “seen it all” and knows what questions to ask to draft workable documents that will stand the test of time.  

To Do #1: Identify an experienced estate lawyer and make an appointment to draft your estate documents. You don’t need all the answers before going to see them.       

2.  End of Life Wishes

  • Creating a document that describes how you want your life to be remembered, and in what format (funeral or other end of life celebration), will make things much easier for your grieving family. 

To Do #2: Pour yourself a cup of coffee, think about what you’d like, tell your family and write it down. If you wish, contact a reputable funeral home to pre-pay the arrangements, making it even easier.

3.  Organize Your Affairs

  • Having a complete inventory of who and what’s involved in your estate and where everyone and everything can be found is a total game changer for your family. 
  • Whether you use QuickEstate™ Estate Orgaizer or create your own lists, being organized before tragedy strikes saves an enormous amount of grief, time and money. 
  • Being organized will also help generate better financial results and reduce professional fees as you build your estate. 

To Do #3: Get organized and stay organized with QuickEstate™

4. Beneficiary Designations

  • Every few years, or as life changes, review the beneficiary designations on registered plans (RRSPs, RRIFs, TFSAs, etc.) and life insurance policies to ensure that, on your death, the funds go to the right person (or to your estate). 
  • Forgetting to remove the name of an ex-spouse as beneficiary is a classic planning error that can create enormous issues after you’re gone. 

To Do #4: Call the financial institutions holding your registered plans and life insurance to confirm your beneficiary designations.   

5. Insurance Needs

  • Determine the adequacy of life insurance to support your survivors and minimize tax on death. Disability, critical illness, long-term care, key man and other types of insurance may also be useful. 
  • Shop around for a reputable provider who is not going to talk you into more insurance than what you really need. 

To Do #5: Review your personal and corporate insurance needs with an experienced advisor and include your accountant in the discussions as needed.      

6. Tax Planning

  • If you’ve worked hard and saved hard, talk to your accountant about strategies to leave more money in the hands of your family and worthy charities, rather than in government coffers. 

To Do #6: Ask your accountant to create an “estate fire drill” plan, showing who gets what, in dollars and  cents terms, including the government, with planning advice. 

7. Family Succession 

  • If a lot of money is going to change hands on your death, or if your circumstances are complicated by a second family or successful operating businesses, an experienced family wealth coach who can work with your other advisors will help create a workable plan around family dynamics. 

To Do #7: Identify a family wealth coach to help navigate family succession issues.

8. Prepare your Executor for the Job Ahead

  • Most people don’t know that while a valid Will is the blueprint for distribution of assets, it’s the tip of the iceberg when it comes to settling your estate. The lion’s share of the work occurs after the reading of your Will. If your affairs are disorganized at death, settling your estate will be a time consuming and expensive nightmare for those you leave behind.  

To Do #8: Your executor is doing you a huge favor! Do them one back by making them an informed decision maker ahead of time. QuickEstate™ gives them clarity, confidence and control over a  process that will take at least 2 years.

To Do #9: Estate organization is a dynamic process. Review all of the above every 3 – 5 years, or in the face of life changing events such as births, death, divorce, or sale of a business.