If you own your assets jointly with your spouse, those assets will typically pass to the survivor automatically. If you have RRSPs, life insurance, and TFSAs you should ensure that your beneficiary or successor holder designations are up-to-date and are consistent with your estate plan. If you own a business, be sure you have planned for your succession. Special attention needs to be paid to any assets you own outside Alberta. If you have assets which, upon your death, may trigger a significant tax liability, you will want to consider how to minimize this liability and how to pay for the taxes.
Consider how you will provide for a spouse or adult interdependent partner. Also think about how you will provide for your children if you or your spouse or adult interdependent partner should die together, particularly if the children are minors or otherwise dependent on you. Take into account any beneficiaries who may be born after you die. If your beneficiaries predecease you, consider who else you would want to receive a share of your estate. Do you have any favoured charities to which you would like to leave a legacy?
Your Executor (can also be referred to as Personal Representative or Trustee)
Generally speaking, the executor of your estate will be responsible for gathering up your assets, ensuring all debts are paid and making distributions to your beneficiaries. If your spouse or adult interdependent partner is your sole beneficiary and your estate is relatively simple, he or she is the most likely choice. An alternative executor should be appointed in the event you and your spouse die together. If you have minor children, your executor may be supervising ongoing trusts for those children for some time. Consider your executor’s age and background, and be certain that he or she capable, available and diligent enough to ensure the proper administration of your estate and any trust arrangements you may have established in your Will. You may wish to appoint more than one executor. It is preferable that at least one of your executors reside in Alberta. Consider whether your family dynamics or the complexity of your estate lend themselves to the appointment of an impartial party, a professional or a corporate trustee.
Guardians for Minor Children
Choosing guardians for your children can be one of the most difficult decisions you will need to make. As you decide who that person or persons will be, you may wish to consider the guardians’ morals and values. Observe how they raise their own children, and consider whether or not they would be able to raise your children. You should discuss your wishes with them to ensure they are willing to take on that responsibility.
If you have special family or financial circumstances, you should discuss them with your lawyer. A prenuptial agreement, divorce, or ongoing support obligations may affect the way in which you plan your estate. Children with special needs may require distinct arrangements. Common law or same gender relationships can add increased complexity to your estate plan.
Income Tax Consequences
Your death may trigger significant tax liabilities. Discuss how you can plan to minimize this exposure.