You’ve probably seen movies or television shows where someone is told to “get their affairs in order”. Milestones in life such as starting a family, buying property, or retiring are all good times to start the process. Whatever the reason, it’s always something best done sooner rather than later. That said, what does that phrase even mean?
While it’s difficult to think about and makes many feel uncomfortable, getting your affairs in order means organizing your legal and financial affairs in such a way as to make it easy for your family, friends, or representatives to carry out your wishes when you have passed away or become incapacitated. You will feel relieved knowing that you have met your obligations, taken care of your responsibilities, and saved your family and friends the time and stress of trying to figure it out on their own.
Here’s a checklist of the things you should do to get your affairs in order:
Have a Will
This is the most important step in terms of having your affairs in order. If you die without a will (known as dying intestate), provincial laws will dictate how your assets are divided and distributed, and your hard-earned belongings could end up in the hands of the wrong people. Ensure that you make the following decisions:
- Appoint your executor – this is the person who will make sure your wishes are carried out.
- Choose a guardian for any minor children.
- Decide who will inherit your assets.
- Choose who will make decisions for you if you become incapacitated.
Appoint Power of Attorney
- Often completed in conjunction with a will, a Power of Attorney is a document that allows someone to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated. This could be as a result of an illness, accident, or advanced age.
- Choose someone you trust, and make sure to get their consent.
Write a Living Will
- This document (often completed in conjunction with a Will and Power of Attorney), will appoint someone to make health decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to do so. Again, choose someone you trust and get their consent.
- Consider what arrangements you want made if you are unable to take care of yourself and make sure to communicate this to your representative.
Also consider what life-saving measures you would want in an emergency. This choice is dependent on your age, your health and your values and is likely to change over time. Make sure that your substitute decision-makers know your wishes.
Organize Your Papers
- Consider compiling all of your important papers in one binder or drawer. Be sure to let someone know where this is.
- You might also consider scanning your documents and saving digital copies on your computer, preferably in a cloud account.
- Have a list of all of your bank accounts, investment accounts, credit cards, pension accounts and any other financial accounts.
- Have a list or photocopy of the driver’s license, passport, social insurance number, marriage certificate, immigration documents and birth certificate for each family member.
- List your utility accounts such as your cable and internet provider, electricity provider, cell phone and home phone provider, and gas or water company. If you have online accounts, list the password.
- Add a copy of any insurance policies you have such as home or auto insurance.
Document Your Finances
- Create a list of all of your assets, specifying any that are jointly owned. Remember to include property, cash, investments, life insurance policies and pension plans. Also include any valuable items you own such as vehicles, art, jewelry, etc.
- Create another list of any debts you have. These will need to be paid from your estate before your assets can be distributed.
- Consider Life Insurance
- You may want to have life insurance if you have people who depend on you financially, whether that is minor children, a spouse, or aging parents.
- Ensure that your policy is with your other important papers.
- Funeral Planning
- When someone passes away, it can be an extremely difficult time for loved ones left behind. By making your funeral wishes clear, you eliminate that burden for family and friends.
- You can even choose to pre-pay for your funeral through most funeral homes.
- Keep documentation of this with your other important papers and ensure your loved ones are aware.
Getting your affairs in order can seem overwhelming. However, by setting aside a few hours, you can give yourself and your loved ones the peace of mind that comes from having a plan.
To discuss estate planning, or any other part of your financial plan, visit your local Kindred branch or book an appointment with a member of our Wealth and Investment Team today!