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Estate Planning Basics

Proper planning can help you avoid estate planning mistakes.
Over the years, we've had many clients who need help with their estate plans. For some, estate planning seems like something to do later in life, when it’s time to “put your affairs in order.” Nothing could be further from the truth. If you have assets that you want to leave to specific people or organizations, or if you have debts that you don’t want to burden your loved ones with, you need an estate plan. If you don’t have debts, an estate plan can help those you care about manage the costs associated with your death.
Here’s how we can help get things started.
Finding a lawyer
A well-written, binding will or trust is the centre of any estate plan, and you’ll need to meet with an estate lawyer to create one. We can help you find the right lawyer for your circumstances and expectations. We can also act as your intermediary when you meet with your lawyer, or we can walk you through many of the points your lawyer may want to discuss with you.
For example, we’ll discuss your current financial situation and your goals for the future. We can talk about what makes a good executor and power of attorney, so you can think about who you want to assign to these roles. If you have dependent children, who will be their guardians after your death? Who are your beneficiaries, and what organizations would you like to leave money to? 
Discussing these things with me before you see your lawyer will give you a clearer idea of what you want and better prepare you for the process.
Understanding costs
Before you draft your will or trust, we can help you understand some of the expenses associated with estate planning. Reducing taxes and other expenses upon your death is an important part of your plan because you want to maximize the estate assets that are left to your heirs, and you should meet with an accountant about this. We can guide you through the questions you should ask your accountant and estate lawyer.
Updating your plan
As a financial advisors, we aware of major changes in the lives of my clients, such as having a baby, buying a new property or losing a spouse. When a big life change occurs, we will review your financial plan and can help facilitate a review of your estate plan by your lawyer and accountant.
Even if you haven’t experienced a major life change, you should review your will or trust every three to five years.
Checking beneficiary designations
The beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, annuities and life insurance policies may override anything you specify in your will or trust. We can review these documents with you to make sure everything looks the way you want it to. You can also leave us with written instructions for your beneficiaries, like how to contact your lawyer, where to find copies of your estate planning documents, or even login information for online accounts.

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