Did you know that only about 50% of Canadians have a valid will?

Life events prompt individuals and families to think about their financial affairs. These include job loss (or gain), change in marital status, adverse changes in health or the death of an immediate family member.*


Common estate planning mistakes to avoid 

  • Failing to prepare a will
  • Failing to keep an updated will
  • Creating a DYI (do-it-yourself) will

A carefully crafted estate plan can be one of the greatest gifts you give your loved ones. Leaving behind a plan clearly indicating where you keep your important documents can make it easier for your survivors to carry out your wishes.


The checklist 

An estate plan can help provide peace of mind, ensure your loved ones are able to carry out your wishes, reduce estate and probate taxes (where applicable) and preserve more of your hard earned assets.

As part of a comprehensive plan, you’ll want to:

  • make a will,
  • determine how your assets should be distributed,
  • keep your beneficiary designations up to date,
  • select a qualified executor for your estate, and
  • tell family members where to find key documents.

Tell a family member about your plans and where you keep documents related to prearranged funeral costs and burial plots you’ve purchased. If you have a favorite charity, be sure your loved ones know the name of the organization and the location of its headquarters. Make sure your family and heirs know where all your belongings are.

It’s best to work with an estate lawyer to draft a will that complies with provincial and federal laws.

  • Choose a responsible person as your executor to take care of financial and legal matters after your death.
  • Keep the will in a place your family knows about and give a copy to your lawyer or other responsible person.
  • Make sure your family is aware of what you’ve outlined in these documents.
  • Consider determining guardianship of your children, having an enduring power of attorney (designating someone to make decisions for you should you become incapacitated) and giving advance medical directives (documents that outline medical treatments you do and don’t want in the event you’re unable to convey your wishes).

Inform your family about where you keep all your important financial and legal documents. Make sure statements, forms and other documents are organized and clearly labeled. Documents or information that your survivors will need include your:

  • will,
  • birth certificate,
  • marriage licence,
  • financial statements, including those from banks, brokerage houses, and credit card and insurance agencies,
  • tax forms,
  • unpaid credit card and utility bills,
  • titles on property and cars,
  • mortgage payment information
  • auto, home and life insurance policies, and
  • Social Insurance Number.

Make sure you give your family the names, phone numbers and addresses of your accountant, legal, and family wealth advisors.

  • You might even want your family members to meet with your professional advisors in order to review your financial and investment plans.

Complete a list of employee benefits available to your family members after your death. Keep statements for retirement plans and insurance policies offered by your employer.

  • Give your family the name of your employer, the company’s address and the phone number of the benefits department.

While you will certainly want to consult with your legal, tax and financial advisors, you can use this checklist now to start getting organized. Make your funeral services and interment preferences known.

  • Inform your family about whether you with to have your organs donated.
  • Your choices could affect cors. Remember to ask a funeral director to provide you with a written price list.

If you wish to prepay your funeral costs, make sure you know exactly what you’re buying, what would happen if the funeral organization goes out of business and what provisions are made in case you change your mind about any of the arrangements.

  • Keep copies of documents given to you when you. make the prearrangements.


This material should be used as helpful hints only. Each person’s situation is different. You should consult your advisor or other relevant professional before making any decisions or taking any action.


*Investor Economics, Household balance sheet report, 2013.

Source: MFS, A checklist to consider: What you need your survivors to know, 2014.