Estate Planning: What have you told your Adult Children?

In our work with clients, it isn’t uncommon for us to find parents who haven’t had any discussions with their adult children about their estate plans. Estate planning may be a difficult topic to approach: not many people like to talk about death, and the intensely private subject of finances can further complicate matters.

However, excessive secrecy can make a potentially difficult situation even worse. How will anyone know how to deal with your assets in the case of death? Or, in the situation where you are alive but unable to act for yourself, how can those appointed to act on your behalf ensure your wishes are carried out as intended?

The health-related consequences of Covid-19 have been a stark reminder of the value in having end-of-life planning discussions with family members. It isn’t necessary to divulge any detailed information about your finances or your Will in advance, but it may make sense to inform family members of your intentions.

In some cases, parents have appointed adult children as executors but haven’t made them aware. Others may be aware, but have not been provided with information on where Power of Attorney (POA), Will and other important documentation is stored. It is important for an attorney (the person appointed under a POA document*) or next-of-kin to know where to find these documents in an emergency situation. This can help prevent a needless search or avoid other complications, such as incorrectly assuming a Will does not exist.

Communicating what is important to you, how you would like to be remembered and your desired legacy may also be important to family members. Without any instruction, survivors may struggle with doubt about whether they made the right decisions. This can be especially difficult during a time of grief. Some individuals plan their funeral arrangements in advance; others may wish to make loved ones aware of causes or charities important to them. Having a dialogue with adult children may also provide an opportunity to pass along family values.

If you own a business and wish to see it continue within the family, it is important to have discussions with family members in advance. Planning today can not only provide clarity over your intention for the business’ succession, but it can also help provide tax and other financial benefits down the road.

While these discussions can be difficult, having them while you are alive and well may provide comfort to you and your adult children that you continue to support them, even after you are gone.

The name: terms and conditions of the POA document vary by province (e.g. known as a mandatory in Quebec).

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