There’s a popular song from the musical THE SOUND OF MUSIC with the words “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When you read, you begin with A, B, C …” There are many things to consider in estate planning, but (just like the song) let’s begin with A, B, C.
A is for Assets. The first step of estate planning is to make a listing of your assets. What are they? Who owns them? Where are they? What is their value? Don’t forget to include everything such as jewelry, automobiles, heirlooms, cherished possessions, and valuable artwork.
B is for Beneficiaries. Make a listing of your family, friends, and charities who you would like to include in your will, trust or other estate planning document. For personal possessions like jewelry and automobiles, it is usual to name the individual that you would like to receive specific assets. For charities, it is usual to refer to a monetary bequest. For everyone else, think of your estate like a pie and how you would like to cut it up. Most estate planning documents refer to percentages – for example, often wills state that “I direct my Trustees to pay or transfer 30 percent of the residue of my estate to my nephew JACOB MICHAEL EDWARDS if he survives me for 30 days. Please note that it is important to include a beneficiary’s full name and relationship to you to avoid ambiguity. Also, consider what you want to happen if a particular beneficiary is not alive. Should the bequest go to his children?
C is for Control. Make a listing of the individuals who you trust to manage, administer, and control your estate. These individuals should be familiar with your wishes generally; have business acumen; and be impartial and caring. These individuals will be executors and trustees of your will; trustees of your trust; attorneys in your power of attorney (that deals with financial decisions); and representatives in your representation agreement (that deals with health and care decisions). The first choice is usually your spouse or partner. The second choice is usually children or close personal friends. Often a trust company or corporate trustee is appointed. Depending on your situation, it may be wise to choose more than one individual.
Listing your Assets, Beneficiaries, and individuals who you want to Control your estate will set you off in the right direction for estate planning.
Then make an appointment with a lawyer to guide you through the many other considerations involved in the process. We have many lawyers at Kahn Zack Ehrlich Lithwick LLP with the expertise and experience to help you navigate this process. Contact us at 604 270-9571 or send us a message to set up an appointment.