Ask Our Experts: Planning Your Estate
News Our experts answer your questions about retirement and estate planning.
| Elaine Blades |
Fiduciary Products & Services, Scotiatrust
| James E. Ross |
Senior Vice President
Assante Wealth Management
Mediaplanet: How do retirement and estate planning connect or relate?
Elaine Blades: Retirement planning should not be viewed as a one-time or standalone activity. Truly effective retirement planning should be part of a broader planning process that takes your financial and personal situation into account to develop a comprehensive, tax-efficient plan that supports and reflects your current status as well as your wishes for the future. Your “life plan” should include a blueprint for building and preserving your assets - now and in retirement - along with a wealth transfer strategy.
Retirement planning should not be viewed as a one-time or standalone activity. Your “life plan” should include a blueprint for building and preserving your assets - now and in retirement - along with a wealth transfer strategy.
James E. Ross: Retirement planning begins before retirement, when the focus is on accumulating assets to eventually replace your income when you retire. Estate planning involves looking at your assets today and making careful decisions on how you want them to be distributed through your will – to family, charities or otherwise. These are ongoing processes that are inextricably linked. Significant changes in assets, income needs or whom you are obliged to support can impact your estate plan. So as your retirement plan changes, it is important to ensure that your Will continues to reflect your current assets and intentions.
MP: What do people tend to miss when creating an estate plan?
EB: Most people appreciate the importance of having an up-to-date will, but estate planning shouldn’t end there. Your estate plan should also include powers of attorney in anticipation of possible future incapacity. A power of attorney is a legal document in which you appoint someone else to act on your behalf. Should you become incapable of managing your financial affairs or making decisions about your personal care and you do not have these important documents in place, important decisions about your care and/or finances may go unmade and an application to court may be required to appoint someone to make these decisions for you.
JR: A proper estate plan is one that involves an assessment of your assets, ownership structures, and the people you have an obligation to or an interest in benefiting. Unfortunately, this assessment is often passed over in favour of keeping things simple – only considering the people to whom your estate should be distributed. The result is often a complex and difficult estate being left to your family, one that does not manage the hard issues and misses out on significant opportunities.
MP: What are the common misconceptions when planning and updating a persons will?
EB: Effective estate planning involves more than simply “making a will”. To be truly effective, an estate plan should take into account a range of factors and issues including: how your assets are owned (by you alone or “jointly” with another; beneficiary designations on assets such as life insurance, RSPs, RIFs and TFSAs; and, any legal obligations you may have to a spouse, dependents or others. In order to ensure your estate plan remains viable and continues to reflect your wishes, periodic review is also essential.
"Preparing a will may seem like a simple task, but there are a multitude of statutes, regulations and a history of case law that can impact what you may wish to accomplish."
JR: Preparing a will may seem like a simple task, but there are a multitude of statutes, regulations and a history of case law that can impact what you may wish to accomplish. The smallest misstep could lead to your assets being distributed in a way that is contrary to your wishes or worse yet, it could even lead to your will being contested. This can be a costly and emotionally trying mistake for your loved ones. Finally, attention to detail is important. Irreparable harm in a family often comes from sentimental items that were left out of a Will, not money, as most would think.