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The Money Management Newsletter: Taxes and Estate Matters
Ten estate planning tips

1. Make sure you plan and discuss with your family or professional advisors how you want your estate to be distributed; don't keep everybody in the dark until the end.

2. Draw up a will. Dying "Intestate" (without a will) increases costs, takes away control of your family's assets and adds stress for your family.

3. Keep all your valuable papers together such as insurance policies, wills, bonds, investment records, birth certificates, marriage certificates and social insurance numbers. Be sure your family knows where they are; don't leave a game of "hide & seek".

4. Review your life insurance and keep your program up to date. It is the most cost effective way to create the cash to pay bills and provide income.

5. If you have insurance, consider a named beneficiary if it is appropriate. If you name your estate it could slow down receipt of monies to pay bills and provide income. Having the proceeds paid to the estate increases executor's fees and gives one more opportunity for the proceeds to go to the wrong people.

6. Explore leaving property and investments as "Joint with rights of survivorship" so ownership can be changed with the least cost, "red tape" and time delay.

7. Name a beneficiary in your RRSP or RRIF or put an RRSP-RRIF clause in your will. This eliminates the possibility of the biggest tax bill possible. The total value of your RRSP/RRIF could be added to income and taxed at probably the highest rate and therefore reduce income to survivors. A "spousal beneficiary" defers the tax.

8. Keep some of the assets "liquid" so that there is cash to pay bills upon death. If not, this takes away the flexibility to preserve the value of the estate and to avoid a forced sale of assets.

9. Suggest to your potential survivors that they seek advice and do postmortem tax planning. If you've done a good job of crating your estate, your family will need competent advisors to help manage the assets.

10. Annually, fill out a Net Worth Statement showing a detailed list of what your assets are, where they are and their current value. Do an Income Statement showing all current income sources, but also a list of the type of income and amounts which continue after death.

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