estate planning checklist

The Ultimate Estate Planning Checklist: Business and Personal

If you’re like most Canadians, you probably haven’t given a lot of thought to having a plan for after you pass and aren’t sure where to start. That’s why we compiled this helpful estate planning checklist for business owners and individuals.

According to a 2018 Angus Reid poll 51 percent of Canadians had no will in place, and only 58 percent of those 55 and older had one. And a will is only one element of your estate plan.

It’s not something most of us like to dwell on, but having a plan in place for what happens to your assets after you pass will make it much easier for your loved ones in a time when they are already coping with the emotional toll of your death. Use this estate planning checklist to ensure you have the right pieces in place.

Estate Planning Checklist for Individuals

There are two key documents that make up the first two items on our estate planning checklist:

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney, also called a living will, sets out who will make decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so. Be sure this is someone you trust and that they are aware of your wishes under various circumstances.

Your Will

Your will is the cornerstone of your estate plan. It sets out how your assets will be distributed and who will oversee the process (your executor). Some things you will need to decide/document in your will:

  • A list of your assets
  • Beneficiaries (are there specific items you want to leave to certain people, or will your assets be divided equally between all beneficiaries?)
  • If your beneficiaries are minors do you have a trust or guardian in place?
  • Are you donating any assets to charities?
  • Who is your executor? This is the person responsible for carrying out your wishes as outlined in your will. You can name one or more people to this role and you should peak to your executor to be sure they are willing and able to carry out their duties.

Other items to consider when creating your estate plan include:

  • Funeral wishes – ensure your family is aware of your wishes in case your will is not read until after the funeral
  • Life insurance – make sure all beneficiaries are up-to-date
  • Location of key documents – make sure your family is aware of the location of key documents like your will and power of attorney
  • Digital assets – most of us have multiple social media profiles and accounts with various online entities. Compile a list of these, including passwords, and make sure your family is aware of how you want them dealt with after your death or incapacitation.

Estate Planning Checklist for Business Owners

If you’re a business owner you also have to think about how your business assets and responsibilities will be dealt with when you die. In addition to the items in the individual estate planning checklist, here are some items you may consider depending on your situation:

  • If you are a Sole Proprietor your business assets and liabilities will be treated as personal and should be accounted for in your will
  • Have a succession plan in place
  • Who will deal with closing your CRA account if the business will be dissolved?
  • Creating an emergency business plan
  • If you have partners or shareholders, prepare shareholder/partnership buy-sell agreements or other contractual arrangements
  • Should you create a holding company for your assets?
  • Is an estate freeze necessary to protect against capital gains?        

Estate Planning with Your Accountant

Most people think about lawyers when they think about estate planning, and certainly they are important when preparing your will and power of attorney. But working with your accountant can help you create an estate plan that ensures your goals (personal and professional) are achieved.

An accountant can provide insights and develop a plan that minimizes the tax implications to your estate and beneficiaries, and make the process as easy as possible for your loved ones. At Avisar, we help our clients with:

  • Will review and planning, including written instructions to a lawyer
  • Assessing the appointment of executors
  • Succession planning including potential business re-structuring
  • Advising on the use of trusts and additional companies
  • Estate freezes
  • Analysis of methods to preserve wealth
  • Recommendations for the possibility of incapacitation
  • Coordinating with your insurance broker to cover potential taxes and debts
  • Advising your executor after you’re gone

If you haven’t started your estate planning yet use this checklist to get started and then schedule a free consultation with one of our estate planning experts to discuss how we can help ensure your estate plan will achieve your goals.

Disclaimer: Avisar Chartered Professional Accountant’s blog deals with a number of complex issues in a concise manner; it is recommended that accounting, legal or other appropriate professional advice should be sought before acting upon any of the information contained therein. Although every reasonable effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this post, no individual or organization involved in either the preparation or distribution of this post accepts any contractual, tortious, or any other form of liability for its contents or for any consequences arising from its use.