Life presents many optional shortcuts. It’s often assumed that a shortcut will save time, effort and money. The risk comes if the shortcut backfires – the time, effort and money required to remedy the situation can be far greater than the savings.
When it comes to your Estate Plan, shortcuts can increase taxes and/or legal fees unnecessarily. But it’s not just about spending too much money. The additional stress to you or your loved ones can’t be compensated by any amount of money.
Vernon lawyer Rob Culos says in some cases, a poorly drafted Will (or other Estate Planning documents such as a Power of Attorney or a Representation Agreement) cannot be corrected if the person who has made them has died or has lost their capacity. Therefore it’s crucial to spend the resources needed to put together an Estate Plan that fits your situation. Remember, there’s no time like the present.
Shortcuts now might mean headaches later
In the age of Google and other online resources, many people are tempted to take the matter of estate planning into their own hands. Of course, some people will manage to draft an Estate Plan that is sufficient to deal with their situation. However, it’s also possible that intelligent people with no legal training can unwittingly create serious problems with a poorly drafted homemade will.
For example, what if one child has received more financial help than others, either because they have run into difficulty or because they needed help starting a business or buying a house? What if one of your children has a relationship which might end in divorce? What if you have a child with a disability, or issues with alcohol and drugs? What if one of your children deserves an inheritance, but is very bad at managing money? In any of the situations, it’s crucial to get legal advice and get a proper Will.
A good Estate Plan involves more than just a Will. Many people have already (perhaps without realizing it) started an Estate Plan by determining that some assets will not fall into their estate and, therefore, will not be distributed according to the Will. Some assets (like RRSP’s, RRIF’s, TFSA’s, life insurance, jointly held assets and segregated funds) do not fall into the estate on death but are paid directly to a named beneficiary.
Some family issues might benefit from more complex solutions. For example, it may be appropriate to distribute some of your assets while you’re alive. You might want to add a person’s name to the title of your house or to your bank account. However, you should always get legal advice before doing these things in order to avoid unintended consequences.
“At Culos & Co., we offer excellent services for those who need estate planning and estate administration (e.g. obtaining Letters Probate). We have seen how a well drafted Estate Plan can bring peace of mind for those who plan and can make their estate much easier to administer,” Rob says.