Putting together an estate plan can be a very personal process with very individual decisions. Despite the personal nature of such planning, the reality is that there are four groups of people implicated in the decisions made. It is important for planners to think carefully about each group and communicate effectively where possible to allow for more straightforward estate administration.
The four groups are:
- Beneficiaries: These are the people who will get assets after death. Depending on the details in the will, beneficiaries may receive a percentage of the value of assets, or they may be left with a specific gift.
- Executor: An executor is the person responsible to oversee the estate administration process. Finding someone with the skillset and available time to execute a will can be challenging for many planners. It is important to find someone trusted who is prepared to take on the responsibility.
- Trustee: Estates that involve trusts will have a trustee or multiple trustees. Like an executor, a trustee should be highly trusted and prepared for the responsibility.
- Guardians: Individuals who are caring for minor children (or another dependent of some kind) should be careful to designate a guardian in their wills. This person will be responsible to care for or find someone to care for the dependents if both legal parents/guardians pass away.
It is clear to see why communication with all four groups can make the transition of an estate plan significantly easier. Executors, trustees, and guardians should agree to the jobs being assigned to them and have an opportunity to ask any relevant questions before it is too late.
While beneficiaries do not necessarily need to be told the exact plan, it can be a good idea to fill them in — especially if the plan could differ from what they might expect.
For legal advice on who is best suited for these roles and how to solidify the plan in a will, it is a good idea to meet with a lawyer who is well versed in British Columbia estate planning laws.