60% of Canadians don’t have a will, leaving many families in a precarious situation. Putting a plan in place for your estate means giving thought to the people you are leaving behind because a legacy isn’t what you leave people, but how you leave them. In this episode, David Edey, Certified Executor Advisor (CEA) and author of “Executor Help: How to Settle an Estate – Pick an Executor and Avoid Family Fights” and podcast host of “Executor Help”, joins the show to share his own experience with being an executor and the common missteps that many make in estate planning and how to avoid them

Listen as David explains the necessity of choosing the right person for the job of executor; the conversations families should be having; how to be organized and prepared after a loved one’s death and the absolute necessity of a will.

Listen to Ep. 31 “Crucial Conversations with Jane Blaufus”

  • How to choose an executor
  • Where and how to keep your will and documents for ease of access by your executor
  • Different options like trust and estate services
  • The difference between an online service for a will and visiting a lawyer
  • Have those important conversations – don’t let the paperwork do the talking for you when you’re gone.

Ideas Worth Sharing:

  • “60% of Canadians don’t have an estate or plan for their will, which leaves families in a precarious situation.”
  • “You want an estate plan which is giving thought to the people that you are leaving behind. A legacy isn’t what you leave people, but how you leave them. What you’re trying to do is leave a legacy.”
  • “At the end of the day, whether you create a will with a lawyer or do it online, you still have to have the conversations with your executor and family member.”
  • “Don’t let the paperwork do the talking for you when you’re gone.”

Resources In Today’s Episode:

Executor Help with David Edey

David Edey wants to provide executor help to Canadians. Approximately 60% of Canadians do not have a will or estate plan leaving their families in a precarious position.

Estate Planning

Estate planning may be one of the least sexy topics there is. No one wants to talk about death, estates, and where their wills are at. Avoidance, procrastination, and apathy are all common reactions but that’s at the heart of the problem. Some might even go so far as to think “Well, I’m dead. It’s not my problem.” However, this type of thinking means leaving a family behind in chaos.

In David’s situation, it took 7 years, 10 court appearances, and $50,000 to settle his parents’ estate. As a result of this experience, and his realization that it was more common than anyone would believe, David wrote “Executor Help: How to Settle an Estate, Pick an Executor and Avoid Family Fights”. He didn’t want anyone else to go through what he went through.

Choosing an Executor

One of the biggest mistakes that people can make is choosing someone who is not ready or capable of being an executor. For example, someone may have 3 children, and not all 3 children may be qualified to take on the task. Further, if you have a child who’s disorganized this can hold up the whole process. In addition, if you’ve chosen all 3 children, you’ve got 3 co-executors and it can become a struggle to coordinate and get everything done.

Firstly, David advises people to think long and hard about whom they will choose as executor. Are they nearby? Are they in another country? Will they be able to weather any potential family drama? Secondly, you’ll also need to put together a team of professionals to assist you with the estate. You will need an accountant, a lawyer, and potentially, a financial advisor.

Moreover, if you decide to choose one of your family members, or like the example, you decide to choose only 1 of your children, this means having a conversation with the family and letting everyone know of your choices, including why you made them. There may be some hurt feelings but communicating expectations can go a long way.

Pitfalls of Being an Executor

A potential issue that an executor may face is distrust.

As a result, many executors run into trouble if they don’t regularly update the beneficiaries. David recommends communicating every two weeks. For example, you can send an email or give a quick call to give an update on how the estate is progressing. In addition, beneficiaries may become suspicious about the amount of time it is taking to resolve the estate, which can be between 18-24 months. They may begin to wonder “where’s my cheque”? Further, if there’s not a good flow of communication, it isn’t uncommon for the beneficiaries to threaten legal action. Finally, with radio silence comes the chance for distrust to enter the relationship between the executor and beneficiaries.

The Estate Documents and Important Information

One simple act to ease the burden on the executor is to make sure they know where the will is.

For instance, you could put it in a big red envelope in your filing cabinet. In addition, don’t put it in a safety deposit box because upon death the estate is frozen which means the executor won’t have access to it. Put it somewhere easy to access. Clearly mark it. Moreover, make sure to include your funeral arrangements and other important information like the names of the accountant, lawyer, and financial advisor. Include logins and passwords. This will go a long way in easing the ability of the executor to fulfill their responsibilities.

On a side note: Make sure they know about your digital assets (anything online.) You will want to include your social media passwords. Each social media company has its own protocol in terms of closing accounts. There are a lot of protocols, and you need to know the passwords. Provide the codes to your phone, tablet, and laptop. All your digital assets should be on a sheet with the will inside the package.

Estate Services

On the other hand, another option available to individuals, if they don’t have an individual(s) to administer their estate, is trust companies or professional executor services. This can take out the personal aspect as you’ll be an account number and it will come with a cost. One of the benefits is that the executor will not be involved in any family drama. If the beneficiaries are expecting a certain amount of dollars, it may mean a little less to pay for professional executor services.

Online Will Kits vs Lawyer

Importantly, David recommends spending the dollars to talk to a lawyer. Furthermore, he also recommends talking to your financial advisor when it comes to the tax implications. Make sure you have an idea of who your accountant will be if you don’t have one. You will need someone to look after the final tax return.

Ultimately, David believes that either option will serve you. He compares online will services and going to see a lawyer like buying off the rack or getting something tailor-made. To clarify, if you decide to visit a lawyer, the estate plan will be made-to-measure. They may also ask you questions and make suggestions that you haven’t thought of. The estate plan will be more specific which may leave the executor with a clearer idea of your wishes.

Why Have an Estate Plan?

Finally, taking the 30,000-foot view, what is an estate plan and why should you have one?

Importantly, if we don’t have an estate plan, the government has one for us. And the government isn’t interested in your wishes. The estate plan is there to ensure that your wishes are adhered to when you pass away. Powers of attorney fall under the estate plan as well. Ultimately, intensive care is no plan to find out that there is no will. You cannot have a meaningful conversation when somebody is on a ventilator. Make sure you have the paperwork in place.

Likewise, this can become especially important if you have a business and there’s no succession plan. If the family relied on the income from the business for survival, without an estate plan, you’ll leave them in chaos and disorganization. You want to have an estate plan for the people you’re leaving behind. A legacy isn’t what you leave people, it is what and how you leave them. With an estate plan what you’re trying to do is leave a legacy. You don’t want to leave them a mess they have to clean up.

To sum up, whether you create an estate plan with your lawyer or do it online, David emphasizes that you still need to have crucial conversations with your executor and family members.

Don’t let the paperwork do that talking for you when you’re gone.

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