Look through the list below and check off any of the barriers to planning your estate:
- Fear of being pressured
- Not knowing how to do it or where to start
- You don’t want to think of death, dying, bad health or possible incapacity
- Tough decisions because of difficult family members
- You and your spouse are not in agreement
- You don’t know a Christian lawyer and you’ve heard it’s expensive
- I’m too young and I don’t have time
- Confused about taxes and laws
- Belief that estate planning is only for the rich
Fear, ignorance and confusion should not be barriers for the Christian. In fact the only fear a Christian is to have is the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 9:10-11). We are to be disciplined to fulfill our God given responsibility regarding our estate. God holds us accountable as His stewards and He has promised us a reward for good stewardship.
Not having a will can lead to greater expense, delay and controversy among family. You and I have heard reports of family disputes over an estate. But that is not the only consequence of poor estate planning:
Top Consequences from Not Planning:
- Missing the Lord’s reward for faithful stewards
- Delays in authentication of your estate
- Paying more tax and more costly court, legal and/or administrators fees
- Damaged family relationships
- Increased risk of incapacity
A Family Meeting Today Can Circumvent Family Strife Tomorrow
As a child, you can alert your parents of some of the consequences of not planning and get their permission to hold a family meeting to discuss their estate. Sometimes a marriage, funeral or someone going into long-term care etc. can be an event you can use to trigger this discussion. When speaking to god-fearing parents, reassure them that this meeting will be covered in prayer and the focus will be on godly stewardship.
- Prepare for meeting by having parents complete a list of assets and liabilities, and an outline their wishes
- Decide who will chair the meeting.
- Be prepared for any problems likely to arise but make clear the purpose of the meeting is to:
- carry out parents’ wishes
- help parents be good stewards
- alleviate bad consequences
- be open and transparent so no false expectations
- and to alleviate stress and worry
Agenda should include:
- What happens if one or both parents die
- Or become incapacitated
- If other living arrangements have to be made and funding
- Funding retirement if still working
- If a child predeceases parents
- Who will be executor and power of attorney
- Advisors to use
- Problem areas
After the meeting use your notes to set up appointments to have wills and power of attorneys drafted and tax advice obtained. Have follow-up family meetings to report and deal with any other issues and to keep family informed on, such as helping aging parents downsize.
My next article will provide valuable insights on choosing an executor and information about taxes and death duties.
This article is intended for information purposes only and not for legal or tax advice. Seek a professional for legal or tax advice.
For more information on Wills and Estate Planning in Your Province visit:
Manitoba (a legal guide to Farm Estate planning PDF document)