Estate planning: An Important Conversation
Estate planning conversations can sometimes be difficult ones, but that’s why we’re here to help. Have you considered your estate plans? We spoke with David Lee, one of our Client Service Advisors, on what to think about when making your future plans.
Why a will is important
“I usually recommend that retired members start with the basics,” says Lee. The first step is to have an open conversation with your family. “It’s one of those topics that we usually avoid with our family members, because we don’t want to talk about death and who gets what or how much, but it’s very important,” he adds.
Lee also advises retired members on the necessity of having a will in place, and recent data supports that need. An Angus Reid Institute poll from 2017 showed that more than half of Canadians do not have a last will and testament. “The will is the key element when it comes to estate planning, because it allows [retired members] to provide orderly distribution of their assets in accordance with their wishes.” Having a will minimizes the burden on your family members after your passing, and without one, your assets will be distributed according to provincial law. “If retired members don’t have a will in place, then I usually recommend they get some professional legal help for drafting a will,” says Lee. “But if their estate needs are straightforward, then you can download a standard will that can be found online. If their estate needs are more complicated, then I definitely recommend going with professional help.”
Already have a will in place? When is the last time you reviewed it? “Make sure it’s not outdated – sometimes members have designated someone an executor and that person has since passed away, so I always tell members to keep their will up to date.” It’s also important to ensure that the person who you’ve named your executor can still fill that role – even with a will, there are a variety of steps they will have to go through with legal and financial institutions after your death, so it’s critical that you’ve named someone that you feel will be able to handle that responsibility.
What about a Power of Attorney?
Lee also advises that you draw up paperwork designating your Power of Attorney (POA). This is a legal document that names the person or people you name who can make decisions for you if you are no longer able to do so for yourself. A Power of Attorney for Personal Care can make decisions about things like your healthcare and housing, while a Power of Attorney for Property can make decisions about your financial affairs. If you do not have a family member or close friend who could be your POA, Ontario’s Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee can fill that role.
Can a trust help you?
If you have a complex estate planning needs, Lee recommends consulting with an estate lawyer and possibly an accountant specializing in trusts as part of your estate planning. “If you have your own business or a large asset, there are strategies that can be used to manage the distribution of income/assets and potential tax implication,” he shares. “A trust can provide flexibility when it comes to asset distribution, so it may be worth considering.”
Other things to consider:
Lee also offers a few other quick takeaways for you to review in estate planning:
Life insurance: “Review your life insurance policy periodically and do a quick needs analysis to make sure your coverage is appropriate.”
Beneficiaries: “Check your pension, life insurance, and registered accounts to ensure your beneficiaries are accurate.”
Contacting OPB Advisors
If you have questions about your survivor or beneficiary pension entitlements or would like to discuss considerations for estate planning, our Advisors are available to help you over the phone or through a video call. To book a one-on-one session, log in to your e-services account at the top-right corner of our website and select ‘Book My 1-on-1’. You can also contact our Client Care Centre to set up an appointment Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EST) at 1-800-668-6203 or 416-364-5035.