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October 1, 2020

Planning what happens after we die can be an uncomfortable topic; facing our mortality comes with the knowledge that one day, our lives will end. But by preparing your estate, you’ll ensure that your family will be looked after when you pass. Estate planning refers to more than your house: it includes your possessions, vehicles, bank accounts, and heirlooms. Think of it as a budget for your assets that will exist after you pass away.


Part of planning your estate involves taking inventory of all your assets. Some possessions are obvious, like your house or furniture, but don’t forget about things like stocks or life insurance. The next step is figuring out how you’d like to allocate those assets. An attorney can help you plan your estate - be aware of things to focus on when hiring a lawyer so that you find someone who can help you with this delicate matter. Not only must you determine who receives those assets, but you also need to specify when they receive them. A trust can be set up so that a third party will distribute your money to an heir over time, rather than in one lump sum.


A will is an important part of any estate plan. In it, you will designate a guardian who will care for your children and/or pets. In a will, you also state your named beneficiaries and who will inherit your home. A real estate lawyer can help you determine how to best handle your property and tie up any loose ends. Your marital status will factor into your estate plan because your spouse is entitled to half your estate.


You can also specify how you would like funeral arrangements and burial processes to be carried out. This can relieve a lot of stress from your loved ones, who may not know how to handle these proceedings after your passing. In your estate plan, outline whether you would like a traditional funeral or if you’d prefer something else. You can set aside funding for these final arrangements to relieve any financial burden from your family.


Another hard but important decision to make is what will happen if you become medically unable to make choices for yourself. Designating a power of attorney will give someone the ability to make decisions for you when you are not mentally sound to do so. In your health care directive, you may choose to specify whether you want to receive life support and if you want your organs to be donated.


While it’s unsettling to be aware of how our lives can be cut short by an illness or accident, it’s important to plan for these events. Without a will, your death is considered intestate, and your assets will be divided based on provincial law. Ask yourself what you want to leave behind once you pass on. Do you want to donate a large sum of your money towards a charitable cause? Maybe you want to set aside money for education funds for future family members. Your sole focus may be to take care of your immediate relatives and children. Whichever path you choose, estate planning will be an important part of making sure your wishes are carried out.



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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.