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The Non-existent Step-by-Step Guide to Estate Planning (Guest Post)

by | Jan 5, 2022 | Estate Planning

One of the most common blogs I am asked to write is a step-by-step guide to estate planning. Any step-by-step guide I’ve ever read is always missing so much information. It’s like the writer is trying to make estate planning simple for the reader. For me, I think it’s best to be open and honest at all times. So let me give this a try.

There is no set, easy, step-by-step guide to traditional estate planning.

Or at least, there shouldn’t be.

Every person, every family, and every estate is incredibly different from the next. This is why I tend to veer away from the traditional estate planning that you might receive from other service professionals. At Viive Planning, we look at planning for the aging and end-of-life process in a very well-rounded, holistic, inclusive manner. Yes, of course, we have a certain way that we like to organize the process for our clients, but we do not provide them with a simple step-by-step guide. That’s not our style.

Our role is to make the whole process easier for the client by taking on a lot of the burden that comes with doing such a comprehensive and detailed plan. However, we encourage them to be involved in all of the steps along the way so that they too can learn about the importance of taking the time to create such a detailed plan for their future.

Now, the purpose of this blog is not to scare you away. It’s not to tell you that estate planning is so overwhelming that you shouldn’t do it. The purpose of this blog is to have you realize that those concise, simple looking lists on how to do estate planning, are nowhere near as comprehensive as you need.

Meet Bob.

Bob is a divorced 64-year-old man living in Caledon, Ontario. Bob has five kids who are all over the age of 18. Two of those children are married and he is a recent and proud grandfather to a new little baby girl. Bob retired six months ago and is enjoying spending more time up at the cottage in the Muskokas, as well as taking a little day trips to historic sites around Ontario. He’s a huge history buff! Bob had a Will drafted with his ex-wife over 30 years ago now. Since the divorce, he hasn’t had it updated. With his 65th birthday looming around the corner, Bob feels like he’s in the right mindset to start planning for his future. He knows that having five kids could complicate things. They are all very different and he doesn’t want any bickering amongst them when it’s his time to pass away. As such, Bob has come to Viive Planning to help with the process of planning for his aging and end-of-life.

Having 5 children can be a blessing and a curse.  That’s 5 kids who no doubt love and want to support Bob. However, that’s also 5 kids who might all want to be the main support for their father. How does Bob choose? How does he pick the right kid(s) to become his Power of Attorney for Property, Power of Attorney for Personal Care and Executor to his Estate? These choices are strategic, yes, but they are also highly emotional. The decisions made should not be taken lightly and should be done in a collaborative way. Bob will be encouraged to involve his family in making these choices and to really take the time to learn and think about the demands that those positions of power bring and determine which of his children is the right fit for each job.

Bob has a pension from his job and owns his house and cottage with no mortgages or lines of credit attached. He feels he is in a good financial position and plans to live a long life. However, Bob shares that his father AND his grandfather died from Alzheimer’s disease. He suspects he will develop the disease himself one day. Bob was not aware of the various choices, costs, and highly emotional decisions he has ahead of him based on his family health history. So many of those choices should be made now, hopefully long before a possible diagnosis of a disease that will leave him incapable of being able to make decisions for himself.

But what if some of his children don’t like the choices and plans he makes? How does he involve them without them influencing these highly personal decisions? This is where the holistic and inclusive style of planning that Viive provides comes into play. A step-by-step guide for estate planning is not going to help with this situation.

Bob is like anyone else – a person with a history of his own, money in the bank and tied up in real estate, family dynamics that could support and derail his plans for the future and much more. We are complex beings and our lives are so different from everyone else around us. We should not be forced to fit into a traditional style estate planning box. The box should be tailor made, created and formed around us and our families.

Don’t sell yourself short. Find a practitioner that can help you and your family make plans that are right for you for your future aging process and eventual end-of-life.

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Mallory McGrath is the Founder & CEO of Viive Planning, which facilitates conversations and fosters an appreciation among family members for aging, end-of-life and legacy planning. Mallory is a mother, wife, daughter and granddaughter whose own chronic illness and pain have launched her towards a career in advocacy and planning.

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