Estate planning for the senior investor.
When we get older, how our financial assets will be dispersed when we pass away is the last thing we want to worry about. Will the money go to the people I want it to? Will my allocation cause disputes among family members? Will probate fees take more of my assets than I’m comfortable with?
Any and all of these concerns are common to many families, and fortunately, there is an alternative, says Dale Collins, Certified Financial Planner and Elder Planning Counselor with the West Shore’s Prosperity Planning.
One of the easiest ways to reduce the time and financial costs of probate, and ensure the money goes where you intend it to, is invest assets with an insurance company, Collins explains.
By putting money into a financial vehicle held by an insurance company – it could be a GIC, annuity, savings account, or any number of options – the money is guaranteed to be dispersed as indicated in the policy and is not subject to probate, the legal process that confirms the validity of a will.
Insurance company savings and income paying policies are governed by provincial insurance legislation that allows an individual to name a beneficiary. Once they have appropriate documentation, insurance companies can pay out a policy to the beneficiary without waiting for probate. As well, these assets do not form part of the estate for the purpose of determining probate fees.
The benefits to this are many.
First, while probate can take six months to a year or more to complete, especially if the will is contested, estate planning using an insurance company can be completed in just a few weeks, a great relief for grieving families. Plus, the money is creditor protected, the policy cannot be contested, and as an insurance policy, it’s a private document. A will, on the other hand, is a public document that is accessible to all.
The individual still has full ownership of and access to their funds while they are alive.
Even upon the person’s death, they have the option of allocating the money as an annuity to provide regular income for their beneficiaries, rather than a lump sum, Collins notes.
“It’s a way of planning beyond the grave and to make sure what you want to happen actually happens.”
And, for those concerned there could be family issues related to a will, this quells those concerns. “Parents don’t want their children fighting over their money so it’s a way to mitigate that.”
For seniors, bringing a variety of accounts and investments together in one place can also be a relief and upon their death can offer an easier transition for loved ones at all already difficult time. “It really makes it easy on the family and the executor or executrix.”
Typically, Collins suggests individuals look at these estate planning options once the first spouse dies, or, for mature single individuals who have wealth they want to see it dispersed in a particular way.
Where appropriate, Collins suggests having the family involved; it makes the transition easier when the time comes if a relationship already exists with the financial planner, she explains.
Interviewed by: Jenn Blyth
Photo: Christine Muir