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CATEGORY : Uncategorized July 1st, 0 Comments

Simple 10-Step Estate Planning Checklist

The sooner you start, the simpler you will find estate planning! The longer you leave it, the more complex and the greater the chance you will miss out on regulatory and tax breaks. So, where do we start? By breaking down the process into simple bite-size bits.

Estate planning BC is simple in principle but can be pretty complex in practice, especially with no preparation. Essentially, you need to know your starting point, where you want to be, and the most efficient way to get there. Our estate planning checklist walks you through the process, prompts you to think about specific areas in isolation, and brings everything together at the end. Whether looking at online wills BC, trustees, beneficiaries or the ever-changing regulatory environment, there is much to consider.

1. Review Your Assets and Liabilities

The first stage of estate planning BC is to review your assets and liabilities, employment, investment and other sources of income. Even though many of us have an idea in our head as to what we are worth, liabilities and plans for the future, when written down on paper they may differ significantly. Therefore, every element of your financial life must be noted in this review. This ensures you can make plans for the efficient structure of your estate and gives you a starting point, a foundation going forward.

2. Appoint Financial Advisers

When you have a list of your assets, liabilities and income sources, this is the time to approach a professional financial adviser. They will sit down with you; look at your assets and liabilities in more detail and your hopes and aspirations for the future. While you will likely need some legal representation to complement your financial adviser, the degree of additional assistance will vary. If you have a relatively simple estate, it should be reasonably easy to keep the cost down when looking at estate planning BC.

Those with business interests and assets spread across Canada and the rest of the world may need specialist assistance. When it comes to business interests, there may already be pre-existing arrangements with directors/partners which need to be respected. In many ways, advice is the key in the early stages, as this will guide you in the appropriate direction.

3. Identify Your Goals

As we touched on above, if you don’t know where you wish to go, how will you know when you get there? Typically, people leave the vast array of their estate to family and close friends. Indeed there are rules and regulations regarding estates; if no will or instructions exist, assets will be shared out amongst spouses/partners, children and the wider family. So it is essential to recognise how you wish your assets to be shared at a relatively early stage. 

Would you like your partner/spouse to receive everything and manage part on behalf of your children? If there are significant assets available, it may be an idea to set up a trust fund for your wider family. Do not automatically assume that those “left behind” are in synch with your thoughts. They may not know about your goals and wishes for your assets. You must leave no element of confusion!

4. Create an Estate Management Plan

The only way that estate management BC looks simple is because you have done the groundwork; you have started relatively early and taken it piece by piece. Now that you know your assets and goals for the future, it is time to establish a formal estate management plan. This will incorporate several individuals such as trustees, lawyers, financial advisers and beneficiaries. You may require additional assistance in some cases, such as a particularly complicated personal/business life.

The next stage of the estate planning checklist is to appoint the relevant people and build on the foundations with the legal paperwork.

5. Appoint trustees/executors

Whether we are talking about online wills BC or the more traditional written will, you must have trustees and executors in place. This prompts the question, what is the difference between a trustee and an executor? A trustee is in charge of managing the estate before it is passed to the beneficiaries. An executor is an individual/company appointed to carry out the deceased’s wishes. They will be involved in many activities, which can include any of the following:-

  • Applying for probate
  • Valuing the estate
  • Settling inheritance tax
  • Registering the death
  • Arranging the funeral
  • Closing relevant accounts
  • Collating assets
  • Distributing funds/assets

Many people are misguided and automatically assume that the executor and trustee have similar roles. This brings us to other questions, such as; can an executor be a beneficiary in British Columbia? While legally, there is no reason why not, from a moral/simplification point of view, the easiest thing to do is to appoint executors that are not beneficiaries.

6. Complete the Relevant Paperwork

Now that you have your team in place, your list of assets/liabilities and have begun taking formal advice, now is the time to complete the relevant paperwork. When we say “paperwork”, many will be aware that online wills BC are now recognised under the law and legally binding. Consequently, this section applies to both online and physical wills.

When it comes down to placing your instructions on paper, there is a growing trend toward excluding immediate friends and family from discussions. This allows the individual to remain focused on what they want, not being overly influenced by the hopes and aspirations of others. Unfortunately, even relatively quiet, unassuming people can turn into hard-nosed individuals if they feel they have been “wronged” in someone’s will. Therefore, you must add as much detail to your will as possible, leaving no room for different interpretations or legal wrangling. 

Failure to create a watertight will can, and often has, resulted in legal action. This not only drags the individual’s family through the courts but can also lead to significant costs, which may be taken out of the estate. In this situation, nobody benefits.

7. Register Estate Documents

Even though there are numerous ways in which you can leave instructions after your death, many people still use the Canada Will Registry. This is a handy starting point for family and friends on your demise. The registration document will note executors and trustees, those allowed access, and details of how your estate should be split. While there is no legal requirement to register estate related documents prior to your death, if they are lost or destroyed, this can cause serious problems.

8. Store Estate Documents

There are numerous methods of storing estate documents to ensure they are to hand upon your death. These include:-

  • Lawyers
  • Banks
  • Financial advisers
  • Trusted parties
  • Cloud services

It is also essential that out of date wills and estate related documents are correctly destroyed. Failure to do so will only cause confusion which could lead to more legal challenges and significant costs. In addition, you will make the situation much more transparent so that everyone knows where they stand.

In recent years we have seen the emergence of virtual storage facilities for legal documents. These services also ensure the timely release to trustees and executors. Due to a change in British Columbia regulations, it is now perfectly legal to store your will and last testament in the clouds. While slowly starting to be appreciated by the wider public, this is a significant development.

9. Adapt and Maximise Regulatory Changes

The idea that your estate planning checklist is a one-time visit, a one-off event, is a fallacy. As we have all seen, governments in British Columbia, across Canada and the globe are regularly changing financial regulations, including estate laws. While dependent upon the type of government, new rules may emerge which are beneficial, while others may increase the government’s tax take from your estate.

Whatever the situation, it is vital that you adapt your estate planning checklist to make the most of often complex regulatory changes. Your advisers should rubberstamp any significant adjustments to the structure of your estate.

10. Annual Review of Your Estate Planning

It is good housekeeping to review your finances and your estate planning checklist on an annual basis. Sometimes, you may require additional advice throughout the year, while other scenarios may require a simple box-ticking yearly meeting. However, you must sit down with your advisers regularly. It may be that your personal circumstances have changed, your finances have exceeded initial expectations, or there may be family issues. 

An annual review ensures that there is regular communication between advisers and clients. It also allows all parties to discuss any issues at hand or potential challenges going forward. Do not underestimate the importance of an annual client meeting!

Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail

When looking at our estate planning checklist, everything appears simple, straightforward and obvious. This is the whole point of the checklist, breaking down a potentially complex task into more manageable bite-sized chunks. Focusing on specific issues instead of the broader picture encourages a high level of detail and greater understanding.

It is essential to have peace of mind while also exerting control of your assets before your death. This ensures that an estate that may have taken decades to build is directed at your preferred beneficiaries. By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail; it is as simple as that!

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August 18th, 0 Comments

Sending your older kids milestone notes

Sending your kids day-to-day notes, like love notes or lunch box notes while they are young is always a special treat and definitely instills a sense of happiness and belonging at an early age.  A bond through note writing is a strong one.  However, often many forget the practice when their children get older.  Writing milestone notes is even more necessary when your children start to face complicated events in their lives, and recognition or acknowledgment that you may have experienced the same will do wonders for their resilience.  It is also a great way for them to know more about you and to see you as a 3-dimensional person rather than a specific lens of parent and child. 

Whether you write them now and send them through the Time Secured Time Trigger vault option for later, or write them, as they get older, it does not matter.  So long as the notes are written and shared for your growing children to treasure.

Here are only a few notes that you should consider writing to your older children, but there are plenty of other additional reasons to send them heartfelt thoughts through notes. 

“Just Because” Note

As our children grow up, you may feel communication with your older children is becoming routine, regimented, and one-sided. So write a note praising your kids praising them or showing how proud you are of them for the littlest things they have done.  You can add encouragement, and sometimes these notes can make all the difference in the world for their day or more.

College and Career Note

A note that acknowledges the most important things to instill in them as they were growing up. Before they leave the nest, with a list of traits or characteristics that you want them to take away with them as they face the next chapter of their lives.  Here is where life advice can be wisdom well imparted. They can also keep those notes for their kids or loved ones in the future as a reflection of your relationship with them.

“Remember When” Note

However old the children are, they will always get a nice laugh or tear from specific memories that have touched you and them or taught them a valuable life lesson – whether they know it at the time or not.  Reflection on the past also reinforces your shared bond and brings up stories and positive feelings that may have been forgotten over time.

“What You Should Know About Me” Note

You will be hard-pressed to meet someone who did not wonder what their parents felt or thought about particular things or events in life.  Even if they don’t admit it.  These notes are about you, but it gives your children anywhere from closure for traumatic events, to deep feelings you could not openly share with them.  Notes make this easier by taking out the walls and preconceptions.  These are valuable messages to your kids to not only teach them about the person you are, but inevitably also about the person they are as well or want to be.  Anecdotes and analogies on what certain things mean to you make it all the more accessible and give them a new understanding of you.  Whether they are shared while you are around as your kids are older and able to understand your perspective or later on in life when you are no longer around (both of which can be done through the Time Secured App easily); these notes are invaluable.

Any of these note types can be shared through scans or emails with multimedia add-ons easily using the Time Secured App. More importantly, the substance and content they entail will be appreciated by your growing children or any loved one for that matter – guaranteed!


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July 1st, 0 Comments

Making sure your share the important information

Want to make sure that your partner, children or any dependents, and other loved ones have all the information they need if something were to happen to you? Whether you are rendered unconscious or worse, you want to make sure that those you rely on and rely on you have access to your money, assets, and any other information they need to help you and themselves out in the process.

The Time Secured app allows you t do this without having to necessarily give access – so long as you plan ahead.  In the Time Secured app, all you need to do is set your “Passing” vaults, upload your files, and choose your beneficiaries.  Choose the days you have to respond to file access requests, it can range from 3 days upwards.  The shorter the time you choose the quicker your loved ones can access the information without your involvement, but the less time you have to keep the files unshared until you are ready to do so.

This is a precious and underrated luxury you are offering your loved ones.  Giving them access to all the information they need at, what could be, a very stressful time is priceless.  Sharing information such as:

  • Email passwords to pull up important information
  • A list of contacts and names to make things easier for them without chasing people around
  • A scan of IDs and other documents that they can use to access whatever they need
  • Bank accounts, so that they don’t have to waste a lot of time chasing down your assets
  • Passwords and pins
  • Even instructions and direction on what to do first and who does what can be invaluable
  • Some would even include, scans or copies of wills, and living wills with specific wishes – including burial sites and directions on how the funeral is to be organized

Don’t underestimate what straight-to-the-point information and checklists can do to your loved ones in their time of need, especially if you are unable to help or guide them.  This is something they will thank you for and ensure that even when you are not available, you are still thinking of them.


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November 5th, 0 Comments

Protect Your Wealth From Probate Tax Canada

It is no excuse to stumble through life without contemplating probate tax Canada and payments on your death. There are ways and means of protecting your wealth, perfectly legal and above board, and you’d be foolish to ignore these. Ensure all assets go to your beneficiaries and reduce gifts to the tax office!

Unlike countries such as the UK, where you pay inheritance tax on your estate upon death, this is not the case in Canada. However, individual states in Canada can charge what are known as probate taxes, dependent on the size of your estate. The level of probate tax Canada compares favourably to other countries, but there are still ways to further reduce your tax liability. This ensures that the maximum amount of your estate is passed over to your beneficiaries – where you wanted them to go.

Estate planning Canada

While writing your own will and managing your estate before death is possible, it can get complicated. Consequently, many people hire the services of an estate planning attorney, even just in an advisory role. They are well aware of the ever-changing tax environment in British Columbia and across Canada, and in many cases, their advice will literally pay for itself. So, when looking at estate planning Canada, what level of taxes might your estate face?

Probate tax British Columbia

Under The Probate Fee Act (Chapter 4), upon your death, your estate may be subject to probate fees on a sliding scale:-

  • No probate tax for estates up to a value of $25,000
  • Estates valued at between $25,000 and $50,000 will incur a probate tax charge of six dollars per $1000, or part thereof
  • Estates valued at more than $50,000 will also incur a charge of $14 per $1000, or part thereof, on the balance over $50,000

For example, an estate valued at $25,000 would incur no probate tax in British Columbia. However, an estate valued at $50,000 would incur a probate tax of $150; an estate valued at $100,000 would pay a total of $850. With estates valued in the millions of dollars, the potential liability to probate tax Canada would be significant.

It is important to note that the probate tax rate in British Columbia may differ from Ontario, Québec and other Canadian states. Consequently, taking advice and/or carrying out in-depth research is crucial. Many people have landed their estates with significant tax bills simply because they have failed to plan.

Consult an estate planning attorney

When looking at estate planning Canada, it is vital to take professional advice if you may be faced with a potential probate tax charge. In some cases, where your estate is valued at up to $25,000, there is probably no estate planning required. However, many people have personal, business, and maybe overseas assets. This is where it can sometimes get a little challenging!

Ways to reduce probate tax Canada

Thankfully, there are numerous methods used in estate planning Canada to reduce your potential probate tax and ensure your beneficiaries receive as much of your estate as possible. While you may need to speak with an estate planning attorney for the finer details, some of the more common ways to reduce your probate tax liability include:-

Name beneficiaries on your life policies

Any assets not assigned to a beneficiary will automatically become part of your estate and potentially liable to probate tax Canada. Therefore, if we take a look at, for example, life insurance policies, there is usually a simple form to fill in to appoint a beneficiary. They would receive any life insurance proceeds upon your death. These funds are paid directly to beneficiaries, usually spouses or common-law partners, effectively bypassing your estate.

It may be sensible to name two beneficiaries, in order of preference, in the event that the first beneficiary cannot carry out your wishes for whatever reason. If there was no backup beneficiary, the proceeds from your life insurance policy would be classed as part of your estate on death.

Designate accounts for beneficiaries

Aside from life insurance policies, many people will have other assets such as a tax-free saving account, registered retirement savings plan and registered retirement income fund. As these are officially registered accounts, it is possible to designate beneficiaries upon your death. This is often referred to as “transfer on death” or “pay on death” instructions. As the proceeds are paid directly to the named beneficiaries, they will not become part of your estate, and therefore there would be no probate tax to pay.

Joint ownership of assets

Many married couples and common-law partners will have assets they own jointly, the most traditional being their home. In this situation, you can revert to what is known as the rights of survivorship. This means that the surviving joint owner will automatically take full possession of the assets upon the other party’s death. As this is similar to direct beneficiary payments above, it would also avoid probate taxes and not become part of the individual’s estate.

If there wasn’t a defined split of ownership in place, in theory, a share of the family home could be sold to raise cash for the deceased’s estate.

Make gifts while alive

Understandably, when looking at estate planning Canada and other areas of the world, many people are reluctant to give away too many gifts while alive. In theory, it makes more sense to distribute at least part of your assets while alive, thereby reducing any potential probate tax further down the line. You may need the help of an estate planning attorney, but there are specific limits concerning assets you can gift each year to family and third parties. Some people believe strongly in gifting assets each year, allowing beneficiaries to enjoy this wealth while still relatively young.

In theory, while various tax breaks are available, gifting and reviewing your estate should be an integral part of your annual financial review. Your financial adviser will be aware of the latest regulations and actions to consider, as well as looking at your broader financial situation. This is the time to discuss tweaks, changes and, in some cases, a complete overhaul of your financial planning.

Consider creating a trust fund

The whole concept of reducing your potential tax liabilities with estate planning Canada is to assign/attach a title to various elements of your wealth. Consequently, depending on the size of your estate and whether it is feasible, you may wish to speak with an estate planning attorney about creating a trust fund. In law, the trust is seen as a legal entity in its own right and owner of the assets in question. Consequently, upon your death, the trustees will follow your instructions regarding payments/transfers to beneficiaries. These will be made directly to beneficiaries and are not classed as part of your taxable estate.

While you may be able to minimise your probate tax Canada liability, there may be running costs for the trust. Consequently, again, it would be sensible to discuss this aspect with your estate planning attorney.

Inter-spousal transfers

Whether married or recognised as a legal partnership, assets left to your partner on death are not ordinarily subject to probate tax. While this may seem like a strange decision by the authorities, there is a method to the madness. This law will increase the living partner’s wealth, reducing their access to state financial assistance and storing up potentially enhanced probate tax liabilities.

Let us assume that married/common-law partners each have assets of $50,000 prior to the demise of the first party. Unless specifically instructed, the partner’s estate will transfer to the surviving individual. While they would pay no probate tax at this juncture, upon their demise, they would pay probate tax, in theory, on a $100,000 estate. A clever ruse by the authorities!

Is a handwritten will legal in British Columbia?

While we have seen the introduction of electronic wills, and the opportunity to store your instructions in the clouds, handwritten wills are still commonplace. These are still legal in British Columbia, although when registering with a notary, you will need two witnesses, at least 19 years of age. It is important to note that while your will mentions an executor and an alternative, these parties are not obliged to be the witnesses. Indeed, in some cases, especially where an executor may be a beneficiary, it can help avoid unwelcome attention.

Have you considered estate planning Canada?

Unfortunately, many people feel uncomfortable discussing their demise and how their assets will be shared among beneficiaries. While perfectly understandable to a certain degree, this attitude to tax laws could lead to potentially avoidable probate taxes and other charges. Many of us will use all tax breaks/allowances available while alive, so it makes sense to do so upon your death. The more financial “gifts” you give to the tax office, the fewer funds available for your beneficiaries!


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