We often think about our legacy and what we will leave our loved ones when we are gone, but we don’t often consider who will pick up the pieces or the work that will be involved. There are several things that can be done in order to simplify the process for those tasked with managing your estate.
Ensure Your Will is Updated and Outlines Your Final Wishes
Your will serves as a roadmap for the distribution of your assets among your family and loved ones. It will direct charitable bequests and can also stipulate other instructions such as funeral arrangements. Your will also name your liquidators (referred to as executors outside of Quebec, who are the individuals or institutions appointed to manage your estate. By having a will, you are ensuring that your wishes are made clear to your loved ones, especially in a time that can be very emotionally charged.
As a resident of Quebec, it is recommended that your will be prepared by a notary as it avoids probate which can cause delays in settling an Estate. It is important to consult a professional you trust to determine what makes most sense based on your personal situation and consider any tax planning that may be relevant.
Designate Your Liquidators
Choose your liquidators wisely. If your estate will be somewhat complex, we recommend that you appoint multiple liquidators, usually three so that there will always be a majority in decision making. If the estate is likely to continue for some time and multiple trusts are created, it may even be advisable to designate a financial institution as one of the liquidators.
If your estate is straightforward, you may choose to appoint only one liquidator, generally your spouse if he or she will feel capable of assuming the role. Otherwise, a friend or colleague that you and your spouse trust and are comfortable with. As the job is often thankless, make sure you ask the non-family member if he or she would accept the position before drafting your will. You may consider including a compensation for your liquidators in your will to compensate for their services and out-of-pocket expenses.
Always appoint alternate liquidators if the original appointees are unable or not willing to accept the position.
Consolidate Your Accounts
Your liquidators will need to gain access to your bank and investment accounts, and will be responsible to close credit cards, utility accounts and other personal affairs. By minimizing the number of active accounts you have, you will be simplifying their job and potentially reducing transfer and account closing fees to your estate. It is advisable to consolidate your banking to one or two institutions, close rarely used credit cards, and deactivate loyalty accounts with no future value.
Create a Personal Balance Sheet
Providing a list of your personal assets such as bank accounts, investment portfolios held with various banks and brokers, details of properties you own, life insurance policies you hold, and the location of safety deposit boxes, to name a few examples, is very helpful for your liquidators. Doing this also helps expedite the liquidation process as your liquidators won’t have to search for your accounts themselves.
Most people also now leave a digital footprint after their passing. Providing e-mail and social media account access to your liquidators will allow them to receive your correspondence and ultimately close the accounts.
Determine if Multiple Wills Are Necessary
If you own property in multiple jurisdictions, particularly real estate, that require probate in that jurisdiction it is often advisable to have separate wills drafted in these jurisdictions. This ensures that the will is prepared by a professional expert in these jurisdictions and that only assets that are subject to probate in these jurisdictions will be before the courts.
Similarly, if you are a resident of a province in which some, but not all, assets are subject to probate it may make sense to prepare two wills so that only assets that are subject to probate in these jurisdictions will be before the courts.
We’re Here to Help
If you have any question about estates and trusts, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team.