So I’m taking a stab at my own brand of motivational content, and I hope it will leave you totally pumped. There will be no references to faster, higher and stronger.  Rather, we are going to get fired up about tackling the gold medal winner under the category of Easiest Part of Your Finances To Put Off Addressing Forever….drum roll…Your Will and Power of Attorney!

If your estate planning documents represent a ‘development area’ for you, understand I am not proposing we address them now, as we enter the holiday season – I’m not that delusional. The thinking is we plant the seed now, you enjoy some delicious procrastination over the holidays, and when January hits you spring into action alongside your new standard issue January gym membership and 30 day detox cleanse commitment, where you subside on nothing but honey, water and headaches. Contemplation of your demise is a natural fit here. Hopefully, by March you are signing some meaningful documents of which your will is one (the other is probably the cancellation of the gym membership, which strangely requires just as many signatures as a will plus a healthy dose of shame – I did it last year). Onwards!

Some food for thought:

  • If you don’t have a will, really you do, it’s just that it has been drafted by the government and will be administered by them…for a fee. Vegas says the government’s asset distribution flow chart doesn’t jive with your baseline intentions. At a minimum, probably worth you and your net worth knowing.
  • Your estate planning documents will cost about $1000 ++ to get put in place. If this is a hurdle, get over it – think of it as the price of admission for anyone who is burdened with meaningful financial assets and people and/or causes, they love —-if it’s all too much, know there are people lined up wanting your problem.
  • In the event there are people in your life you really dislike, don’t forget that in British Columbia a will can be contested by anyone. Lawyers are standing by….which leads to the next point,
  • A do it yourself will kit from the drug store is probably not the answer if you have meaningful assets and any hint of complexity. I used to refer wills to a now retired lawyer who was an estate litigator as well. In my mind he spent his mornings in court decimating poorly drafted wills, and in the afternoon drafting wills for clients with the knowledge of what made a will capable of withstanding the rigours of attack from unhappy beneficiaries, or people aspiring to be beneficiaries.
  • A word about lawyers. As it turns out, some people aren’t fans. A well heeled individual I knew despised lawyers, and “cut them out” by writing their will on a napkin and having it witnessed by a realtor. Not exactly iron clad estate planning, or put another way, dumb. When she passed away, chaos ensued amongst numerous beneficiaries, and the lawyers they so despised earned 5 figure billings instead of 4 figures. For a lawyer, doing a will is almost a lost leader, while litigating a contested estate (often due to a poorly drafted will) is where the big billings reside. Relative to the alternative, wills and fancy trusts are dirt cheap.
  • Almost everyone starts the will planning exercise with the assumption that their circumstances and intentions “are simple”. Often, contemplation of where assets go when a couple dies at the same time, is where strong opinions surface. Fair, but not necessarily equal, distribution of wealth amongst kids is a beauty if you’re ever looking to make conversation. Implications of adult children marrying less than ideal spouses is another one.

As a financial advisor, I don’t draft wills – lawyers do that. I do speak with clients extensively about their lives and their money —— which gives me good insight into what the will and/or trust  should include, or whether it even exists. Armed with this insight, i then keep it on meeting agendas until completion – a well intentioned estate planning bully. Wealth management without attention to estate planning, is incomplete. The lawyer will happily help you, but getting yourself in front of them voluntarily is a bit of a trick.