When I meet with my clients to prepare a Will, I like to review the property that makes up their estate, as well as any debt they may have. This review is important for a number of reasons – one of them being that I find out what property a client owns and how he or she owns it. How property is owned is important from an estate planning perspective, and it affects the advice I give a client about his or her estate plan and future estate administration.
Most people are surprised when I ask if they have listed a beneficiary on any life insurance policies, RRSPs, TFSAs, or other investments they own. I ask this questions because investment and insurance policies may not be included in a deceased person’s estate if there is a named beneficiary. Instead, the pay-out to the beneficiary occurs outside of the estate and is not dealt with by the deceased’s Will.
This information is important, as it helps lawyers, accountants, and financial advisors to structure an estate plan for their clients that best reflects the clients’ wishes and complies with any legal obligations they may have. This is particularly important where blended families are concerned, as one may have obligations to provide support and maintenance for a new spouse, as well as for children from a previous relationship. Information about jointly owned property – bank accounts and land ownership as joint tenants are common examples – also helps to establish a comprehensive estate plan. .
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