Will and estate planning

Everyone should have an estate plan in place, complete with a will. This ensures that financial affairs are resolved quickly at your death and that your loved ones benefit from your estate and lose as little as possible to taxation.

Vancity's estate planning services can help you to make the right choices for your estate. We can walk you through the process and review your plan, how your assets are held and, if needed, direct you to a specialist who can assist you with insurance and investment options that make sense for you and support your plan.

We can help you identify key areas for which you may need additional professional advice. We can also refer you to an experienced estate and trust lawyer to prepare your legal documents for you.

Why you need a will

The most important part of your estate plan is a valid, up-to-date will. If you die without a will, the government simply distributes your estate according to provincial law. Not according to your wishes. Only with a will can you ensure that your wishes are clearly laid out.

The best way to create a will is to work with an expert. Many do-it-yourself will packages leave details open to legal interpretation. So it pays to get good advice.

It also pays to have your will updated regularly by your professional advisor. Your acquisition of assets and a new child, for example, are good reasons to keep your will current. Other changes in your relationships may also change your will in ways you had not anticipated.

How to distribute your estate

Distributing your estate is more complicated than simply dividing things among your heirs. You need to determine the value of your assets from pensions, investments, real estate and personal property. You also need to know which assets you own jointly with your spouse and who are the beneficiaries of your RRSPs and insurance policies.

Then you must appoint an executor, the person who will see that your wishes are met. Lastly, you must decide on your goals. Most people want to maximize the value of their assets and protect them from excess taxation. It also makes sense to leave behind enough liquid assets (cash, stocks or bonds) so that your executor doesn’t have to sell physical or family assets to pay taxes.

When you are unable to help yourself

We recommend that in addition to your will you prepare an enduring power of attorney and a representation agreement. These legal documents are designed to protect you and your family should ill health prevent you from making decisions about your affairs on your own.

An enduring power of attorney lets you appoint somebody you trust, referred to as your attorney, to help you look after your financial and legal affairs. The authority of the attorney continues even if you become unable to make any decisions on your own. It allows your attorney, for example, to act for you if you become mentally or physically infirm.

In some instances, it may be more appropriate to appoint a representative to help with financial matters through a standard representation agreement if the adult does not have the legal capacity to make an enduring power of attorney due to mental disability due to age, illness or otherwise, or if the adult has simple financial matters and no real estate or complex investments. Under the representation agreement the powers of the representative are more limited than under an enduring power of attorney but having a representative gives access to assistance with financial management for those who may be under a disadvantage. It also provides a simple document for people who have less complex financial lives.

A representation agreement also allows you to appoint a trusted person as your representative to assist with your personal and health care decisions when you are not able to give directions or consent on your own. This is particularly important if you have express wishes concerning specific medical treatments or medications. A health care decision maker may be appointed under a standard (section 7) or an enhanced (section 9) representation agreement. The enhanced representation agreement gives the representative more wide ranging authority to make decisions for the adult.

Lawyer referral services

Vancity has organized a network of local lawyers who are available to assist members in preparing their will. Simply call a firm on the list and identify yourself as a Vancity member who is interested in preparing a will, enduring power of attorney or representation agreement.

Fees for these legal services depend on the complexity of your estate plans and your need of other advice. Be sure to discuss fees at your initial meeting.

Corporate Executor

When a corporate executor is needed for your will, Vancity can help you obtain those services through Concentra Trust, the trust company for credit unions.

To find out more about Vancity estate and trust services, contact us at 604.877.7617.

 

Charitable Giving

If you would like to consider making a charitable contribution to the Vancity Community Foundation through your estate plan, or learn more about what we do

please contact:

Allison Felker
allison_felker@vancity.com
604.877.7241.