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Creating a legacy: Make your estate plan your own

There are many ways people follow in their parents’ and grandparents’ footsteps. Some attend their father’s alma mater, use their grandmother’s gravy recipe or take over the business their mother started. However, when it comes to the legacy each of us leaves behind, it can be important to create your own path.

An estate plan is a vital tool that allows you to do this. Below, we examine how to use your estate plan to define your wishes and discuss why it is crucial that it reflects your unique interests.

Components of your estate plan

The basic elements of an estate plan include:

  • A will
  • Advance directives
  • Representation agreement
  • Trusts
  • Beneficiary designations
  • Charitable gifts

Each component can protect something crucial, whether it is how you wish to distribute your assets or whom you would like to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.

Controlling what you leave behind

Taking the time to create and update your estate plan ensures that you control what happens to your care, property and personal wishes. If you do not do this, you leave the door open for someone else to decide.

If you do not have a will, your property will be distributed per British Columbia law. The courts will appoint someone to make decisions and execute your estate. Under these circumstances, there is no guarantee that the choices others make will be the ones you would have made. In some cases, they could directly conflict with what you would have wanted.

For example, instead of making a charitable donation to a cause you genuinely care about, the courts could distribute funds to an estranged family member. Instead of passing a treasured heirloom to your best friend, an executor might sell it. And instead of respecting your wishes to forego life-prolonging interventions, well-intentioned family members may approve the use of feeding tubes.

It is also worth noting that having an estate plan also protects your loved ones. If you do not create one, family property or money could be lost, and disagreements among family members could strain relationships beyond repair. With an estate plan, you can control the mark you leave behind.

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