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Planning makes a difference

Planning makes a difference

When it comes to estate planning, most of us put it off – often until it’s too late. As Linda Pearson, Executive Director of Gift Planning, explains in this “Q and A,” once you understand the process, it can be relatively straightforward and painless.
Linda PearsonLinda Pearson, Executive Director of
Gift Planning at Queen's University

Q.Do I need a will?
A. Yes. A will is a legal document that outlines in exact ­language how you wish to ­dispose of your ­assets. If you don’t have one, the government will dispose of your assets – ­although not necessarily in the way you’d like.

Q. Where do I begin my estate planning?
A. Start by making a list of your assets – your house, bank ­accounts, stocks, insurance ­policies, valuable objects, and so forth. Take your time doing this. You want to catalogue as much as possible. Then, identify your beneficiaries and alternate ­beneficiaries. Note any special management or timing considerations especially in the case of dependants.

Q.Can’t I write my own will?
A. In theory, yes, but wills are complex legal documents. We recommend having a lawyer ­prepare your will for you. ­Writing one yourself may lead to confusion later about your wishes or leave your will open to legal challenges.

Q. Can I revise my will after it’s written?
A. Yes, as long as you’re mentally competent. In fact, wills should be updated from time to time, to reflect changes in your assets – and your beneficiaries.

Q.What is an ‘executor’?
A. The executor is the person (or persons) selected by you to make sure that the wishes expressed in your will are carried out. An executor’s duties can also include making funeral arrangements, filing individual and estate tax returns, and evaluating the value of the estate. A potential executor should have the time and the skills to carry out his or her duties. Make sure your executor knows where the original of your will is located. Remember, too, that some executors ­expect to be paid.

Q.It isn’t just about the money. If I want to leave a legacy, how do I do that?
A. For many people, estate planning is a chance to create something that will go on after they are gone and will benefit others. Remembering a charity, such as your alma mater, is a great way to do this.

Q. Can Queen’s help me with this?
A. There are numerous ways to make a difference in Queen’s ­future. Working with you or your legal counsel, the university’s Gift Planning Office can help you structure your gift to ensure that it can be used in the way you ­intend. We can also advise on the possible tax benefits that will maximize the value of your gift.

Do you have a question about estate and ­financial planning or charitable ­giving that you’d like answered in a future edition of “Planning Makes a Difference”? If so, please email Linda Pearson, Executive Director, Gift Planning, with your suggestion.