Three Mistakes to Avoid With an Estate

May 07, 2019

HAMILTON, Ontario: Any responsible person knows to plan for the worst while hoping for the best. Nobody wants to think about creating an estate plan and face their own mortality until they are very old. However, it's the responsible thing to do.

When someone passes away without an estate plan, it means they have no input to what happens with their possessions or money; the province will decide how the assets are distributed. This will lead to extra expenses and often takes a long time to resolve.

Many people have never set up an estate plan and wouldn't know the first thing to do. This is why Three Best Rated sat down with two award-winning estate lawyers and an award-winning financial advisor to learn three mistakes to avoid with an estate plan.

1. Not Having a Will

A person is (almost) never too young to have a Will. [Many people think] they do not need to evaluate their estate for various reasons such as being young, healthy or even just procrastination, says Justin Bussoli, an estate lawyer with Carr Law Personal Corporation. However, not having a Will needlessly causes extra time and money to be spent dealing with the estate. It creates ambiguity and conflict surrounding the beneficiaries of an estate, adds Joel Sinke, a financial advisor with Edward Jones. When a person passes, the last thing the surviving family members will want to think about is how the estate will be allocated; having a Will makes it so they don't have to worry and give them peace of mind they are acting according to the person's wishes. First and foremost, a proper Will should always be included in your estate, says Mark Epstein, the managing partner of Epstein & Associates.

2. Not Naming or Updating Beneficiaries

The beneficiaries are the people who will receive the inheritance once the client has passed away. In most cases, named beneficiaries supersede the directives expressed in a will, explains Sinke. Thus, even if the client changes their will to reflect their wishes, the inheritance could still end up in the wrong hands. A mistake people make with their estate is if they have a Will, it doesn't reflect what they want to happen to their estate, says Epstein. By regularly updating and reviewing beneficiaries, clients can be reassured that their estate is going to the right hands. Often people don't properly plan for the death of beneficiary/attorney under a Will or Power of Attorney, adds Bussoli. If a beneficiary passes away and the estate is not updated, then this can have unexpected consequences. [This includes] the wrong person receiving an inheritance, unforeseen tax implications and estate having to go through Probate when this could have been avoided, says Sinke.

3. Not Considering Taxes

Taxes can be a significant estate expense, says Sinke. However, they can be mitigated or even avoided altogether. An effective estate plan and ... using life insurance as a means for planning for the tax burden can be useful in lowering the tax cost to an estate, Sinke says. With taxes being such a large portion of estate expense it becomes even more imperative to follow the other guidelines above to have plenty of time to work through setting up the estate and Will. We find people tend to inquire about [a Will and Powers of Attorney] at a time when it may be too late for us to help, says Bussoli.

Overall, everyone should contact their estate lawyers and financial advisors to set up their estate plan before it is too late. As with most things, this process will take time and the sooner it is started, the better. Nobody wants to leave their loved ones behind with the headache of dealing with the estate and Will when all they should be doing is mourning. People shouldn't be afraid of calling their lawyer because it's going to cost them money to speak to them, says Epstein. They should be more concerned with what the cost will be for failing to make that call. (PRN)

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