As an entrepreneur, it’s important to know the benefits associated with estate planning, but when should you start planning your estate? What is the ideal estate planning timeline and what events can affect it?
Estate planning is one of the best things you can do to protect your family, preserve your wealth, and clarify your wishes for the distribution of your assets upon your incapacitation or death. It is critical to start your estate planning as soon as possible. However, it does not need to take a long time, and your wealth management advisor will walk you through the estate planning timeline and process.
Below we dive deeper into everything you need to know about estate planning timelines.
When Should You Start Estate Planning?
The best time to start estate planning is today – or as soon as you can book your appointment with your wealth management advisor. Life is uncertain, and tomorrow is never guaranteed, which is why you should establish your estate plan as soon as possible. Documenting your wishes is especially critical if you have significant assets or a family that relies on you. Protecting your family is something you should never leave to chance, so you are never too young to document your wishes.
If you think you do not need to worry about your estate plan for years or even a few decades, consider the following questions:
- If something happens to you tomorrow, is your will ready? Do you have a Power of Attorney arranged in case of incapacity?
- Do you need to set up a trust?
- Did you ever share how you hoped to leave a lasting legacy with your family?
- Did you make some plan to support your favorite charitable causes?
- Would your estate be tax efficient?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you have likely identified some vulnerabilities in your family’s future security. Therefore, it is prudent to consider your wishes and document them in an estate plan as soon as you are able.
How Long Does Estate Planning Take?
How long estate planning takes will vary based on your unique family and financial situation. For example, if you have many assets, a blended family, a business, a charitable giving strategy, or legacy plans, your estate planning may take longer from start to finish.
However, if you have a more simplified personal situation, the preparation of your estate plan could come together quickly. Your wealth management advisor can guide you through the process and advise how long your individualized estate planning will take.
It is also important to note that estate planning is an ongoing process. Therefore, you should review and evaluate your plan every three to five years or whenever you reach a milestone or have a significant change in your life.
What is the Estate Planning Process?
There are generally six critical steps in the estate planning process: establishing your goals, assessing your affairs, deciding on your beneficiaries, working with your advisor, and evaluating your plan regularly. However, the process you follow will likely be unique to your family’s situation.
You can expect that the estate planning process will involve:
Step 1: Reflecting on who and what matters most to you
Step 2: Compiling any documents or information related to your personal and financial situations
Step 3: Considering your beneficiaries
Step 4: Meeting with your wealth management advisor to discuss your goals
Step 5: Implementing your individualized estate plan
Step 6: Meet with a notary (in Quebec) or lawyer (elsewhere in Canada) to draft your legal documents
Step 7: Regularly reviewing and adjusting your estate plan as needed
Overall, the key to effective estate planning is dedicating time to deliberate reflection about your wishes and priorities and then working with a wealth management expert to document your plan.
How Do Different Life Stages and Milestones Impact Estate Planning?
Your priorities will likely evolve as you progress through life and reach exciting personal and financial milestones. You may also encounter situations that require you to change the plans you were confident in just a few years earlier.
For example, you may:
All these factors can impact the decisions you make about the transfer of your wealth and the division of your assets upon your incapacitation or death. Therefore, they all serve as prompts for you to review or revise your wealth transfer plan, remove previously listed beneficiaries, or add new ones.
Ultimately, your goal is to ensure that your estate plan is as up-to-date as possible and that you capture all your loved ones in your estate planning documents. Therefore, even if you do not have significant life changes, it is still prudent to review your estate plan with your wealth management advisor every few years.
What is the Difference Between Estate Planning and a Will?
While many people think an estate plan only requires establishing a will, comprehensive wealth management strategies are much more robust. There are multiple components of the estate planning process that focus on identifying your priorities, increasing your tax efficiency, securing your plan for legacy or charitable giving, and so much more.
Of course, developing a will is an integral part of documenting your wishes, but you can prepare a will without working with a wealth management advisor. Outlining your asset transfer plan in a will is better than nothing. Still, you may miss out on essential considerations and processes that play a part in protecting your family and securing their future.
Time to Kick-Off Your Estate Planning Timeline
Estate planning is an important strategy of a wealth management plan that involves many elements, including the drafting of a will and a power of attorney for incapacity. It is important to build an estate plan that not only protects your assets but also your family, business, and partners.
Be sure to revisit your estate plan at each major milestone in your personal and professional life. While an estate planning timeline may vary from one person to the next, one constant remains: the earlier you start, the better.
As your strategic wealth management advisors, we will be able to assist you in creating an estate plan that suits you and your family’s needs at every stage of your life. Request a consultation; we will be happy to discuss your situation with you.