Distributing your estate
Distributing your estate is more complicated than simply dividing things among your heirs. You'll need to determine all of your assets from pensions, to investments, stocks and bonds,* real estate and personal property. You'll also need to note which assets you own jointly as well as who the beneficiaries are for your RRSPs and insurance policies.
Once this is done, decide on your goals. You'll want to maximize the value of your assets and protect them as much as possible from taxation. You'll also want to make sure you have enough liquid assets to handle your liabilities so your heirs won't have to sell off physical or investment assets.
Gifting assets before your death and establishing trusts are two good ways to help protect your assets from taxation. However, keep in mind that both strategies can be complicated by the individual tax circumstances of your survivors.
Organizing your estate
Planning an estate isn't something exclusive to eccentric billionaires. Everyone should have some sort of estate plan in place to ensure their financial matters are resolved quickly and expediently, and their family and loved ones lose as little as possible to taxation. Money is not the only thing to consider – putting a plan in place for your loved ones will ensure your future wishes are put into place and your loved ones are taken care of.
The importance of a will
The most important part of estate planning is ensuring you have a valid, up-to-date will. This should also be updated on a regular basis, even when small changes in your circumstances can affect your will. If you die without a will, the government will distribute your estate in accordance with provincial law. Only a will can ensure your wishes are fulfilled. The best and safest way to create a will is to work with an expert, as many do-it-yourself will packages can leave details open to legal interpretation.
Your will should be updated periodically and in consultation with your professional advisor, especially as you acquire new assets. You should also update your will if you have a new child. You should also be aware that if you marry, your existing will becomes invalid.