Estate planning isn’t just about planning for death, it’s also about planning for life.
The early years
Young adults, especially those in their 20s and 30s, often feel they don’t need a Will because, “I don’t have anything.” But if you have a bank account, a credit card, a car—then you do have an estate and you should have a Will, with an appropriate executor named to deal with these assets in the event of your death. And while you’re at your estate lawyer’s office to draft that Will, you may wish to execute a power of attorney and an advance health directive.
As adults become more secure financially, they start purchasing. It could be a condo, a house or a cottage at the lake. Then your estate questions become slightly different: Is the mortgage life-insured? What are your insurance needs for life, disability, property, etc.? Do you have adequate coverage?
The relationship years
These questions become even more pressing when you enter a relationship, be it common-law or marriage. If the property was solely owned before the relationship, will it be re-registered joint with right of survivorship? Is there a marriage or cohabitation agreement? Does the Will, power of attorney and advance health directive need to be updated? In all provinces except Alberta and British Columbia, marriage revokes a Will unless a contemplation of marriage clause is included. In Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, cohabitation can revoke a Will unless a contemplation of cohabitation clause is included. If there is no Will, some provinces do not recognize a common-law partner as having rights under the laws of intestacy. Are appropriate beneficiary designations in place on insurance policies, pensions and RRSPs? Have you engaged a financial planner to help you achieve your financial goals?
Unfortunately, it happens, and it should spur a review of your estate plan. Many of the same questions need to be answered as when entering a relationship: Is there a property settlement? This may be an important factor in updating your Will and beneficiary designations on registered plans and insurance policies.