Estate Planning Strategies

Estate PlanningMany families are not aware of the estate planning options necessary to ensure their intentions are carried out on death.  Estate planning is complicated enough without adding family dynamics into the mix making preparation important.

With the current trend of living together without getting married many couples think that the same marital status that applies to taxation also applies to estate.  It does not.  Upon death, without a valid will, a common law partner is not recognized as a spouse and would be excluded from a share in the estate.

Consideration and selection of an appropriate nominee guardian for minor children is an integral part of the estate planning process.  Why risk courts and government agencies intervening to make decisions.  You need certainty that the care of your child’s life is in the right hands.  Emotional toll is only compounded with the potential of inheritances that may be tied up and or depleted in the process.

Although a will only makes up a portion of an estate plan, there are many unintended mistakes that are commonly made.  For example, many people enter into identical wills with their spouse or partner.  What few are aware of is by law the survivor may not change or revoke his or her will after the death of their partner.  Changes could be contested causing family problems and unintended beneficiaries.  What if the surviving spouse develops additional needs?  What if one of the children divorce and both are beneficiaries?  What if a surviving spouse wishes to make special arrangements for a caregiver or charity that helped either party in a time of need?  The variations are endless.  This common problem is solved by adding a simple provision to your wills. 

Sometimes seemingly small word changes can have unintended but substantial legal ramifications that result in dramatic changes to the distribution of assets from what was planned.  Small changes can undo best intentions and unfortunately family conflict can result.

The process I follow for estate planning includes:

  • Complete an estate planning checklist.
  • Meet with you and your spouse or partner and clarify and confirm desires and objectives
  • Ensure the people involved with your estate are aware of the intentions.  This can include beneficiaries, executors (or executrixes), trustees and guardians.  
  • Then implement.  All the other steps are not valuable without action.