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Delaying estate plan can be disastrous

Ontario couples who delay planning for their death may be running many risks. Estate planning can help outline how a person wishes his or her funeral and burial to be conducted. It can also help individuals to provide details about the distribution of their assets so that the courts do not dictate these details.

A will is a basic estate planning document that shows how assets should be divided. The documents should be left in a safe and secure location, such as in a safe deposit box or with an estate planning lawyer. One of the most important aspects of a will is the naming of an executor. This individual may be responsible for complex distributions and may need to make difficult decisions. Not having a will or a person who is named executor can result in a family fighting over the deceased's belongings.

Individuals may sometimes include directives in their wills that allow the executor to seek legal or financial advice for help in dealing with the estate. Financial institutions may refuse to release an asset under certain circumstances, and an adviser can recommend how to proceed. Additionally, a lawyer may suggest alternatives to the probate process, such as having bank accounts and real property listed as a joint property. An adviser may also be able to recommend how to avoid or minimize the need to pay capital gains taxes.

Individuals who are considering establishing an estate plan may decide to consult with an estate planning lawyer. This professional may be able to provide suggestions about arrangements that can be made to honour a person's final wishes. He or she may be able to update wills when major changes, such as marriage, divorce or the birth of a child have occurred.

Source: St. Albert Gazette, " Putting off estate issues is dangerous, experts warn", Amy Crofts, May 03, 2014

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