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Single? Estate planning is still important

It’s natural to think that estate planning for a single person would be less involved than for someone who’s married with children. But that’s not necessarily the case. Many estate planning measures that are made automatically by a married individual, such as leaving estate assets to their spouse, require more time and thought for a single person.

Choosing an executor
Depending on the province, an executor who administers an estate may be called a personal representative, liquidator or estate trustee. It’s very common to name a spouse or adult child as executor, which makes things different if you’re single and don’t have children. Many singles name a sibling or friend who’s willing and capable. If you don’t have a suitable friend or relative, another option is naming a professional executor, such as a lawyer, accountant or trust company.

Naming beneficiaries
If you’re single, who gets your estate assets? Some people base the beneficiary decision on who they feel closest to, others on who needs it most. Beneficiaries might be one or more close friends, a charity, siblings, nieces, nephews or other relatives – or a combination.

If you name a friend or relative as the beneficiary of your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) or Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF), assets can’t be rolled over or transferred to their registered plan as is the case with a spouse. Your beneficiary receives the value of your RRSP or RRIF, and your estate pays the plan’s tax liability. It’s the same when naming a friend or relative as the beneficiary of a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). Your assets can’t be transferred to their TFSA – though they may choose to contribute some funds to their TFSA if they have contribution room.

Identifying your powers of attorney
You should have powers of attorney documents in place in case you ever suffer a serious medical condition or cognitive impairment that leaves you unable to manage your financial or health needs. A power of attorney for property, or protection mandate in Quebec, appoints a person to take over your financial affairs. A power of attorney for personal care appoints an individual to look after your health care, and is known in some provinces as a personal directive, health care directive or representation agreement.

When it comes to preparing a power of attorney, once again a common appointee is either the spouse or an adult child. But the single person’s task can be made easier in a couple of ways. You might be able to find one person to appoint for both powers of attorney. In some cases, the person you name as executor might also be suitable to take on the responsibilities of a power of attorney for property or personal care, or both.

This information covers singles without children. If you’re a single parent, contact us to discuss additional estate planning issues and options.

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