Your Family Tree: The first step to building your Estate Plan

Estate Planning Saskatchewan

Estate planning is one of those topics that often gets forgotten about during the financial planning process.

It is pretty common for our team to follow up with clients 3, 4 or even 5 times before any traction is made on the subject.

Why do you ask?

Well let's be honest here, talking about what will happen after you die can be a touchy subject. While some are eager to make an estate plan, most choose to put it on the back burner which will inevitably be forgotten.

This is understandable. The topics that need to be addressed can often unearth unfinished arguments, negative feelings and uncomfortable conversations.

These can be hot button topics....

  • Who will take over the family cabin?

  • I don't think my adult child is fit to handle this sum of money, what should I do?

  • My daughter has no interest in the family farm, how do we ensure she gets her fair share?

  • I'm in a second marriage / common-law relationship and have adult children from my previous relationship. Will my children be cut out of an inheritance if I die first?

  • I love my son/daughter in-law, but I want to be sure my grandchildren receive their inheritance, is this possible?

As you probably have gathered by now, estate planning is really just a series of uncomfortable conversations.

The other option? Do nothing.

This non-decision is your choice and with it comes its own set of unique consequences.

  • It may cause rifts between your adult children who may feel they have been "short changed", causing ongoing resentment well after you are gone.

  • You may enable an adult child or grandchild early access to funds which they are not capable of managing properly.

  • It could result in your executor being responsible for settling an estate that is in utter disarray.

  • Executors living in another province or country may not be able to perform their duties as an executor.

  • You could erode the value of your estate, leaving less money to your beneficiaries and more money to the Canada Revenue Agency.

To me, the choice is pretty clear...

So, now let's assume you have made the wise decision to make an estate plan, it's time to take the first step: Map out your family tree.

For some of you this will be straight forward. Others may have a blended family, minor grandchildren, a family business, and other unique family dynamics. These all highlight the importance of mapping out your family tree.

As a financial planner, this step is crucial.

It gives me understanding of the underlying relationship dynamics and allows me to start asking the difficult questions.

The family tree also provides the building blocks needed to start reviewing how the beneficiaries are structured on your registered assets (RRSP, LIRA, TFSA etc.), gain understanding of how and why your current Will is structured and highlight any serious gaps in your current plan.

So what is this family tree I speak of?


Do not skip this step!

If you are a DIY investor, having your family tree mapped out and then reviewing your estate documents will help ensure you are on the right track. Be sure to consult professional legal and tax advisors to draft the proper documents.

For those of you working with a financial planner, this step will allow your planner to properly assess all of the moving parts. With the complete picture in front of them, they should be able to quarterback the estate planning process for you. They should also be coordinating with your legal and tax advisors to help implement the final plan.

Ask your financial planner if they have access to their own internal Advanced Financial Planning (AFP) team. These teams are generally comprised of tax, legal and investment experts that will help your financial planner search for gaps and provide suggestions on how to best address them.

If you are wanting to get access to a world class Advanced Financial Planning team, get in touch with us today. We offer this in-depth planning process to all of our clients at no additional cost.

Not only will our AFP team add value to our relationship, it has the potential to reduce the cost of finalizing the estate plan as a lot of the heavy lifting has already been completed prior to finalizing documents with your lawyer.

At the end of the day, no financial planner is an expert in EVERY aspect of personal finance.

Think about it.

You started a relationship with an advisor because you realized gaps in your knowledge and you made the decision to hire a professional to fill those gaps.

Similarly, a wise financial planner will recognize gaps in their knowledge and bring in the experts to ensure the client experience and outcome are of the highest standard.

So, do you need to complete an estate plan review?

Well, if....

  • You have never created an estate plan (Will, Power of Attorney, Family tree planner etc.) - now is the time to start.

  • Your life circumstances have changed - your current estate documents may no longer be suitable.

  • Your will and power of attorney documents are more than three years old - it's time for a review.

For additional resources that will help guide you through the estate planning process, visit our Estate planning portal and start building your legacy today!

Want to complete an estate assessment?

Check out our process here.

Written and published by Michael Isbister, IG Private Wealth Management as a general source of information only, believed to be accurate as of the date of publishing. Michael Isbister is a CERTIFIED FINANICAL PLANNER professional in Saskatchewan. Not intended as a solicitation to buy or sell specific investments, or to provide tax, legal or investment advice. Seek advice on up to date withholding rules and rates and on your specific circumstances. Trademarks, including IG Wealth Management and IG Private Wealth Management are owned by IGM Financial Inc. and licensed to its subsidiary corporations.


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