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December, 2009

How much do you know about your spouse? Are you prepared should the unforeseen occur? Too often, upon the death of a partner or loved one, people are left scrambling. Much of this could be avoided with advanced planning.

Locating and centralizing your important papers is a priority. It should be easy to find bank accounts, investment accounts, wills, safety deposit boxes, real estate holdings, and life insurance.

Make sure that your wills are up to date and notarized. Many people neglect to do this. It is particularly important if you are in a second marriage and there are children involved. Your wishes may not be respected and the fallout among family members can be devastating.

Verify that the beneficiaries on your life insurance policies are correct. Generally the life insurance proceeds are paid directly to the named beneficiaries and bypass the estate completely. If minors are involved such as grandchildren, make sure you appoint trustees on the insurance contract and that you specify to what age.

Consider prearranging your funeral. This simple task ensures that things will be done according to your wishes. This avoids unnecessary acrimony among family members and siblings. Consider purchasing a small life insurance policy to cover final expenses such as funeral and burial costs. By doing so, you know the money will be available.

Appoint trusted executors who can look after your estate. Keep in mind the many tasks such as filing a terminal return, applying for death certificates, transferring RRIFs and RRSPs, pensions, real estate, and assets in general. You want to make sure that the value of your estate is maximized and not compromised by foolhardy decisions.

The best advice is to get good advice. Death is not a topic that most of us want to face; however, acknowledging its impact on your loved ones will go a long way toward easing the burden.



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