How to develop an estate plan

By ATB Wealth 9 June 2020 3 min read

woman writing in a notebook

You there! You’ve decided that it’s time to create your estate plan. But now what? Where do you begin to start and what do you do? Who do you talk to? These are just a few of the questions that might be racing through your mind.

Here are some steps you can take towards successfully creating your unique estate plan to feel prepared for the future.


1. Assess your current financial situation

Your first task is to create a list of your assets and liabilities. Assets include all accounts, vehicles, properties, life insurance policies, pension funds, collectibles, art and more. Liabilities include your mortgage, short-term loans and credit card balances. Advisors at ATB Wealth can provide you with a checklist of assets and liabilities to help you along the way.

Next, do your research to identify any beneficiaries you have listed on your accounts, property or life insurance policies. Also, verify which assets are solely or jointly held. Assets that have designated beneficiaries or are jointly held do not form part of your estate upon death. This means that they will not flow through your estate and are not subject to probate fees.


2. Think about your goals

When developing your estate plan, you should think about your personal and financial goals. You’ll also need to think about who your beneficiaries will be and if they will receive their inheritance immediately upon your passing or at a later date.

Considerations for these decisions include the value of the inheritance, the maturity or financial expertise of the beneficiary or whether there are any health issues with a beneficiary that would prevent them from receiving their inheritance unconditionally. If you have beneficiaries with special needs or a blended family, you might want to consider special arrangements.

Your goals are unique. If an objective is the preservation of wealth, business transition planning could also be top of mind as you may be faced with planning for control of the business to a family member, selling to the third party or even selling the assets within the company. Another goal may be to make some gifts now, perhaps for educational purposes.


3. Take action

Once your goals are identified, consider who will be the executor to manage your estate, who will be the guardians for your minor children and perhaps, consider your funeral arrangements.

Create an enduring power of attorney (EPA). Appoint someone you trust to oversee your financial affairs if you become ill or otherwise unable to do so. They can pay bills, operate your accounts or pay taxes on your behalf.

You should also create a personal directive. Here, you can appoint someone you trust to manage your personal and healthcare decisions, if you are unable to do so or become incapacitated. You can choose your preferred medical procedures or living arrangements.


4. Consult the appropriate advisors to implement your plan

There is no substitute for qualified advice. Depending on the nature of your assets, your personal circumstances and to some degree your age, start a conversation with your financial advisor.

Financial advisors have tools and years of experience to introduce you to estate planning concepts, clarify and record your goals and share with you what to expect as you move through the process. If you currently have a team of professionals, your financial advisor will collaborate with them to ultimately design and deliver a plan that is unique to you.


5. Store your files and documents for easy access

When your plan is completed, store all relevant documents and files, including digital files, in an accessible location for your executor, family and heirs. This will help save time and money in managing the administration of your estate.

Such documents can be left in a bank safety deposit box, a home safe or possibly with your lawyer. Let your loved ones know where these documents can be retrieved and provide a list of names and telephone numbers of your legal and financial advisers.


6. Periodically review your plan

Don’t forget to review your plan every year or when there are major events in your life such as a birth, death, divorce or new marriage. Ever-changing tax rules and legislation mean that you need to periodically review and update your estate plans.

Contact us at ATB Wealth to start the conversation about developing your estate plan.

ATB Wealth experts are ready to listen.

Whether you're a beginner or an experienced investor, we can help.