Tips for Living: Your Yearly “Check-up”

Once a year, it’s a good idea to check and update your important documents and other information. Now that you’ve had a chance to recover from the holidays and get started on your New Year’s resolutions, here are a few items that could probably benefit from an annual check-up:

Your will:

  • Even a will prepared just a couple of years ago may need to be updated.
  • Was your will prepared by a lawyer or a notary (particularly in Quebec)? If not, are you certain that your wishes are accurately noted in your will and that it will stand up legally? Many provinces have laws that specify who will receive part of all of the distribution of your estate, so a legal expert can guide you through the labyrinth, so that your wishes can be followed appropriately. A holograph will, if not prepared properly, can be a minefield for your beneficiaries.
  • Have you changed your marital status?
  • Have any of the beneficiaries died or changed their marital status?
  • Should you add any new-born children or grandchildren to your will?
  • Are you still comfortable with your executor(s)?
  • Should you have an estate trustee as well? Your bank may be able to assist you.
  • Are there any other changes you should make?
  • Do you want to leave a percentage of your estate to one or more charities?
  • Do the instructions for the distribution of your assets reflect your current wishes?
  • Have you made a list of non-monetary assets (furniture, jewellery, automobiles, boats, secondary residence, etc.) and indicated clearly how they should be distributed?
  • Does the will include a list of the names and contact numbers for everyone listed? (As long as you have such a list in a place that your executors know about, you may not need to include it with your will.

Your beneficiaries

  • Review your pension and benefit plans to ensure that the beneficiary section is properly completed and that the trustee of your plans (or the government agency/agencies involved) has correct current information.

POA and Living Will

  • Do you have a current Power of Attorney? Are you still comfortable with the person designated to deal with your affairs, if you cannot?
  • Do you have a Living Will that clearly indicates your wishes should you become unable to deal with your own health issues? Does it speak to your wishes regarding organ donation or donation of your body to a local medical school for scientific research? Are you still comfortable with the person designated to deal with such issues on your behalf?

Life, Health, Long-Term Care and Disability Insurance

  • Do you have sufficient (or too much) coverage for your current needs?
  • Are the beneficiaries on the policies correct?

Investment Accounts

  • It’s time for your annual meeting with your investment or financial advisor to ensure that your portfolio’s asset allocation is consistent with your current age and work or retirement situation.
  • If you have many different investment and financial advisors, you may want to think about consolidating your accounts in one or two institutions.
  • It’s always wise to examine carefully the types of investments you have to ensure that they make sense for your current situation and future needs. Many people have several mutual funds that duplicate investments. Taking into account the costs vs. the benefits of doing this, you may want to reflect on the possibility of rationalizing your investments to ensure that your portfolio’s asset allocation is appropriate for you.
  • Do you have an RRSP, a RRIF and one or more annuities? Depending on your age, you may be able to take advantage of tax savings related to RRSP contributions. Your contribution room is indicated on the reverse side of your annual statement from Revenue Canada – and Revenu Québec, if you live in Québec– (which you should have received after filing your last year’s tax return.
  • Do you have a Tax-Free Savings Account? If not, it could be wise to set one up now.
  • Are your financial assets listed and easy to locate?
  • Do you have a safety deposit box? Does your executor know where it is and where the key can be found?

Medical Information

  • Does your family know the name and contact information for your family doctor, dentists and any specialists you see?
  • Have you made a list of the prescriptions you take and where you have them filled?

Funeral arrangements

  • Have you already arranged your funeral and paid for it? If so, this information should be in your will.

Make a list

  • If you haven’t yet developed an “If Something Happens” binder, this would be a great time to do so. You can refer to the how-to article and template in a recent CARP newsletter. It will be an excellent reference for your family and executors when you pass away.