Make a Will Month - Derek Hambly
The majority of Canadian adults do not have a valid, up-to-date Will. This is an easy thing to remedy as, generally speaking, anybody over the age of majority, who is of sound mind, can make a Will. Estate planning is a painless process that puts your mind at ease for the present and is a great benefit to your loved ones in the future.

November is Make A Will Month. Having a valid Will in place ensures your assets, property, and possessions are distributed how you choose after your death and passes authority and discretion to those who will carry out your intentions.

While you are growing out your moustache, putting up your Christmas lights, or otherwise preparing for the holidays, consider that the best gift you can give to yourself and your loved ones is the peace of mind that comes with having your affairs in order.

Naming your estate trustee

Deciding who to name as your estate trustee is one of the most important decisions that you make as part of your estate planning. Your estate trustee is the person that administers your estates and has a great deal of authority and discretion as part of the administration process. The estate trustee is responsible for many tasks, including:

  1. Making arrangements for your funeral;
  2. Coordinating your burial or cremation and interment;
  3. Finding and validating your last, valid Will;
  4. Determining the name, addresses, and ages of all beneficiaries;
  5. Contacting and communicating with beneficiaries;
  6. Locating and determining the value of your assets including the clandestine contents of your safety deposit box;
  7. Arranging for the payment of your debts and liabilities, if any;
  8. Hiring a lawyer to conduct the administration of your estate, apply to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee, and complete the Estate Information Return Form;
  9. Protecting your property which can involve obtaining insurance and securing or supervising your assets;
  10. Opening an estate bank account;
  11. Preparing and filing the necessary tax returns in all relevant jurisdictions;
  12. Keeping detailed records of all transactions and accounting for your estate;
  13. Administering any trusts established in your Will; and
  14. Distribute the assets of your estate as per the terms of your Will and obtain releases from all beneficiaries.

It goes without saying that the person you name as your estate trustee should be a person that you trust. It is also important that the person you name is competent and organized. Acting as an estate trustee is a daunting task, even for small estates. If an estate is mismanaged an estate trustee can be personally liable. Acting as an estate trustee comes with a considerable to-do list.

When you start the estate planning process you do not need to have all the answers, working with an estate planning lawyer is the best way to ensure that you have a comprehensive plan in place.

The best inheritance is a carefully planned estate.

Derek Hambly is an Associate with the Wills & Estates Law group at Harrison Pensa practicing estate planning and estate administration.

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