PLAN AHEAD TRAVEL TO THE GRAVE- IT’S MORE THAN JUST A WILL
We spend the first half of our life planning for our future career and life and the second half planning for death, at least we should be.
After my father-in-law passed away last year none of us kids were prepared for what was about to fall on our shoulders.Having some form of executor resources would have been beneficial to our overall mental health as it was draining for everyone to find what we needed.
Not only were their financial burdens to us but we spent far too much time digging up what we should have already had access to, but we didn’t. Although you would think a surviving spouse would take on the task of executor it doesn’t always happen that way especially if health gets in the way like in our case.
You would think dying was simple, but it’s far from just funeral plans it’s everything in between and on-going after your loved one is put to rest. The cost to bury someone in Canada outrageous if you plan to have a traditional funeral and burial but the red tape can tie you down especially if there are no pre-arrangements made.
After someone dies
Gathering the key documents and reading the WILL is probably one of the hardest tasks to complete when you have to search for information that could have been readily available as an executor or surviving spouse.
Planning for the closing of your estate and affairs after death takes more than just hiring a lawyer it takes effort on your part. This is what this guide is about, planning key documents for your loved ones so upon your death no one has to search high and low for the information the government needs.
The 3 most important things you will need to find upon the death of someone you are executor or in charge of are;
- The WILL (you will need to provide notarized copies of the Will to certain institutions to prove you have authority to act on their behalf)
- Social Insurance Number
- Death Certificate from the funeral home or the province (just about everyone will want a copy)
In an upcoming blog post I will talk more about the tasks involved of the executor in more detail.
What is an estate?
Essentially an estate is a combination of assets, liabilities, rights, titles or any real estate that a deceased person may own. In essence it’s their finances a look at what they owe, who they owe, what they own and what they have rights to.
After someone passes away whether they have a Will or not makes a big difference but in this case let’s assume that they do. You don’t have to hire a lawyer to close the affairs of a loved one if there is an executor named unless that executor backs away. The other reason you may need a lawyer is if a beneficiary or creditor contests the Will at which time it’s best to lawyer up.
If there was no WILL it all depends on how the assets were owned. If the sole owner is the deceased then yes you will need a lawyer but if there is joint and right of survivorship then likely no.
Why is planning ahead for death important?
One of the things we promised each other was that we wouldn’t leave our son in the same predicament as my father-in-law left us. The one good thing was that he did plan ahead and there was a Will which we were more than thankful for.
The only problem, we didn’t know where to find it. Mix that in with my mother-in-law suffering from un-diagnosed dementia and you’ve got yourself a mish-mash of uncertainty and a tonne of work on your plate.
If you want to help others left behind skip the red tape I’m here to tell you to please plan ahead for death whether you have a will or not. An executor to your estate is not only imperative it’s crucial to finalizing your affairs once you are gone.
One of the best things you can do for your executor is to leave a detailed plan above and beyond what the WILL states so their work is not pain-staking and draining. After all they are mourning your death so why add fuel to the fire if you don’t have to.
When should plan ahead for death?
There’s no rule however if you have children, assets that you plan to leave or if your health is deteriorating it’s best to have a will drawn up today. Don’t wait. Don’t make excuses, just do it.
It will be the best decision and it will add a sense of peace to your life. You can always go back and adjust your WILL with a lawyer if need be but the important part is to at least have one.
Immediately after we got home from a week of hell at the in-laws did we call a lawyer and a good one to book an appointment to complete our Will. The costs of our will for both of us came in under $1000 but it was worth it because
- It’s done
- We have a copy in a fire-proof safe
- The lawyer has a copy in a fire-proof safe
- The executor knows where the Will is and who the lawyer is.
What she doesn’t know is all of the in-between that will help her in the event that we both die together. It happens every day where couples die together in a car accident, house fire, explosion, suicides and so on.
It’s certainly not the best topic to talk about BUT it’s a must because death happens whether it’s accidental or not and even if there is a living spouse if he/she doesn’t have a clue where anything is it makes the grieving process 10x worse.
Planning ahead tools
So this post is for you because you’re still alive and you need to make the transition from life to death as easy as possible on those looking after your affairs.
What can you do for them?
You may not like to fill out paperwork but these documents that you will prepare for those acting on your behalf upon your death will be valuable.
We’ve been through the process and are still closing affairs for my father-in-law and since my mother-in-law is still alive it makes things a little tougher especially since her mental health is deteriorating. Jumping through hoops for medical documents and lawyers is only skimming the surface so it’s important to remember that a surviving spouse may not even be able to take on the responsibilities of your death.
One of the most important things I must stress is that couples need to communicate about everything whether it be finance, liabilities, assets, business and so on. If you don’t and one of you passes away you have to go search for the information.
In the case of my in-laws we couldn’t even find their WILL. We had to tear the house apart to find it because my mother-in-law kept garbage bags of documents and mail in closets and drawers. Talk about NOT being organized, she was it and he had no idea about anything related to their finances.
The information that you provide below reflects your life and the special people you have in it. This means you are putting down on paper everything there is to know about you so others can lay you to rest peacefully.
Thankfully the funeral home provided us with booklets to help us to follow-through with the process after death and getting our father-in-laws affairs in order. Below is everything we learned in terms of executor resources but also how you can help your loved one’s ahead of time by placing detailed documents with your WILL so they are notarized by your lawyer.
Always be mindful that information you provide may change over time so it’s important to review them at least yearly or as needed to keep them up to date.
Most importantly your executor or advisors upon death must know where these documents are located so they have access to them at all times after your death or in the event that your health deteriorates.
I currently don’t have free downloads for this but I am working on it and will add them in as I go along. In the meantime I will explain them to you so you can get a kick-start on creating your own documents which are fairly straight-forward.
- Asset Inventory
- Business Contacts
- Document Checklist
- Family Contacts
- Beneficiaries or Heirs
- Key Documents
- Net Worth Statement
- Funeral Pre-arrangements
- Written Instructions of Possessions
This is the main asset inventory that my mother-in-law received in a booklet from the funeral home although it would have been nice to have it filled out prior to the death of my father-in-law. You can add any other assets that you see fit to your list as this will be one of those executor resources that will be top-priority.
- Principal Residence $
- Automobile(s) $
- Cottage, condo $
- Recreation Vehicle $
- Rental Property $
- Boat $
- Investment Property $
- Mobile Home $
- Vacant Land $
- Aircraft $
- Farmland $
- Time Share $
- Burial plot, columbarium $
- Final Salary $
- Financial Income Tax Refund $
- Bank Account $
- Credits $
- Bank Account $
- Driver’s Licence Refund $
- Bank Account $
- Insurance Refund $
- GICs and Interest $
- Loans Receivable $
- Savings Bonds $
- CPP Death Benefit $
- Term Deposits $
- Refund of pre-payments $
- RSP/RRIF/LIF/LIRA $
- RESP $
- TFSA $
- Stocks/Debentures $
- Dividends/Interest Income $
- Life Insurance $
- Shareholdings $
- Personal Life Insurance $
- Tax Shelters $
- Corporate Life Insurance $
- Mortgage Investment $
- Group Benefits Insurance $
- DPSP $
- Mortgage Life Insurance $
- RPP/IPP $
- Annuities $
- Stock Options $
- Accident Insurance $
- Credit Card Insurance $
- Bank/Loan Life Insurance $
- Personal Property Other$
- Valuables/Collections $
- Artwork/Furnishings $
- Firearms $
- Jewellery/Antiques $
Create a list of business contacts that need to be involved or contacted in the event of your death especially if you are a business owner.
- Business Contact:
- Type of Business:
- Contact Name:
This is the area we struggled the most with because we had to find almost all of these documents in years worth of paper-work.
- Funeral/Cemetery pre-arrangement information or documents
- Legal, social insurance number, health card number
- Certificates, birth certificate, passports, permanent resident card, firearm licence
- Government/Benefits information
- Real Estate, corporate interests, mortgage document location, house deed location, addresses and phone numbers of all
- Vehicles, vehicle insurance, ownership, stickers, drivers licence
- Banking/Financial, bank address, bank books, bank cards, list of all credit cards, other loans or debt information
- Accounting/Taxes, income tax returns.
- Investments, Employment/pensions (List and detail all investments, companies, employers, providers, addresses, phone numbers) list beneficiaries for each.
- Insurance, house insurance, life insurance, other insurance policies
- Utilities and Providers- Call all of them so you need to know them all to find out who’s name they are in.
- Subscriptions- Call and cancel (What subscriptions you hold and the details)
- Club Memberships- Call and cancel (What memberships you hold and the details)
- Landlord- Alert landlord of passing Name, Address, Phone
- Change of Address (if needed with Canada Post)
- Logins and Passwords: This is especially important since almost everything is conducted on the computer these days. Perhaps creating a secure document with relevant websites, passwords and usernames and storing them in a fire-proof safe. Update as needed.
This is important for me since my family lives in the UK and if my wife doesn’t have any family contact information she could struggle to locate them. I know with social media this makes things a bit easier but not everyone is on social media either.
- Last name
- Place of birth
- Phone number
- SIN number
- Marital Status
- Maiden Name
- Highest education
- Employer or recent
- Next of Kin name, address, phone number, relationship
- Spouse name (last and first)
- Wedding date
- Date of birth
- Maiden name
- Father’s name (last and first)
- Mother’s name (last and first)
Any other family information you’d like to provide, add it now.
Beneficiaries or Heirs
This is simply a list of all of your beneficiaries or heirs that you will include in your WILL.
These documents will help those who need this information but let them know where the original documents are as this is simply a checklist document to detail policy numbers, amounts, location, executor name, numbers, addresses, alternate executor.
1. Last Will
- Alternate executor
- Phone numbers
- Date of Last Will
- Where is the Will located?
2. Life Insurance
- Face value:
- Phone number:
- Policy location:
- Policy number:
- Agent’s name:
3. Disability/Critical Illness/Long-Term Care Insurance
- Face value:
- Phone number:
- Policy location:
- Policy number:
- Agent’s name:
Again this is your basic liability inventory that is important for everyone to have at all times not just in the event of death. Create a word document with this list of liabilities and add as you see fit as everyone will have different liabilities.
- Liability and the Outstanding Values
- Real Estate
- Principal Residence Mortgage $
- Cottage Mortgage $
- Rental Property Mortgage $
- Investment Property Mortgage $
- Vacant Land Mortgage $
- Personal Property
- Bank Loan $
- Line of Credit $
- Credit Card Debt $
- Department Store Card Debt $
- Other Credit Card Debt $
- PAC Withdrawals $
- Merchandise Leases $
- Life Insurance
- Personal Life Insurance Loan $
- Corporate Life Insurance Loan $
- Investment Loan $
- Margin Account $
- Automobile Lease/Loan $
- Recreation Vehicle Lease/Loan $
- Boat Loan $
- Accounts Payable
- Salary Advance $
- Income Tax Due $
- Other Tax Due $
- Personal Guarantees $
- Personal Loans $
- Outstanding Cheques $
- Other $
Net Worth Statement
Your Net Worth statement is a snapshot of your finances such as assets and liabilities. We complete a monthly net worth statement for our house but that’s a bit different than your net worth statement.
Although your net worth can change from month to month it’s important to have this one document prepared for your family so they understand the value of your estate.
- Cash and cash equivalents (Cash on hand, Bank accounts, money market funds, GIC’s- Tbills, Certificates of deposit and term deposits, cash value of life insurance policies, money owed to you.
- Investments (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, RSP, RRIF, RESP, Corporate pension plans, other
- Real estate and Property assets (Personal residence, vacation property, commercial property, other real estate, vehicles, jewellery, furs, art, coins, furnishings, equipment, antiques, collectibles.
- Short-term debt (Credit Cards,Line of Credit, Loans, Taxes Owing, Unpaid bills, Charge Accounts
- Long-term debt (Other, Principle residence mortgage, other mortgage
Total Assets minus your liabilities equals your Net Worth.
Have you pre-arranged your funeral? If yes, what a relief that will be to those left behind having to plan it.
What you will need here is to detail your funeral pre-arrangements so your executor or spouse knows where to go.
- Name of funeral home
- Address of funeral home
- Phone number
- Contact name
- Cemetery arrangements ex: plot information, deed number, spaces purchased, mausoleum, cremation, columbarium
- Embalming, viewing instructions
- Visitation instructions
- Open or closed casket
- Casket choice
- Urn choice
- Stone choice
- Mausoleum location and writing and decor
- Interment rights or certificate number
- Pallbearers/Honorary pallbearers
- Reception, Food, Flowers
- Clothing and Jewellery instructions
- Service location/church/Clergy/Priest
Written Instruction of Possessions
For those of you with possessions that you want to leave to certain people written instructions as to who gets what will go a long way. This was one of those things that seemed easy enough for us since we only have one child.
Here you will make an inventory of your most valued possessions and then list who gets what. The only catch is that for it to be legally binding it must be added to your WILL. So either complete this at the time you are having your WILL drafted by your lawyer or you can add it when you have it completed.
This ensures that the person who is intended to get something that you’ve left them gets it rather than finds out it was sold at an estate sale. By creating a list such as this it simplifies the process of dividing possessions and it’s less headache for everyone involved.
Executor Resources Links
Executor Resources links to important government agencies that you may need for closing affairs upon death of a loved one. You can either print or save the list to your computer so you have them handy which is what we did.
On the list of government resources you will find direct website links to the following resources;
- Canada Revenue Agency
- Important links
- Provincial Resources
- Service Canada
- Indigenous and Northern Affairs
Discussion: Share any horror stories that you’ve been through as an executor or any other tips I may have forgotten or left out of this Ultimate Guide of Executor Resources Upon Death.