Episode 8 – Documenting and Organizing Your Estate Binder


Documenting and Organizing Your Estate Binder by Astra Financial

We’ve all seen Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, but have you listened to The Estate Planning of the Rich and Famous yet?

Estate planning and leaving a legacy isn’t just for the rich and famous, but I know it can be intimidating and frankly sometimes a bit morbid to talk about.

That’s why I recorded a few of these latest podcasts – to break down what you need to do to make sure your wishes are fulfilled and the legacy that you hope to leave behind becomes a reality. Whether you want fireworks at your funeral or to have your money go to your favorite charity, it’s important to have those wishes written down and kept safe so your loved ones know what to do.

This podcast goes over my four basic steps to beginning your estate and legacy planning – from organizing your finances to naming executors.

Show Notes: 

Hello, and welcome back to another round of, “Heart of Our Money Talks”. This is episode eight and today I’m asking you, what legacy will you leave behind? This is in the spirit of our talk last week with “The Estate Planning of the Rich and the Famous”. 

Now we’re going to talk about estate planning, but the most important part of this piece is leaving a legacy and how we’re going to live our life.

COVID has brought illness and death to the front of our minds. The news gives us death and illness tallies. I check it daily — we get numbers updated every day. I don’t think I can remember a time when I’ve talked with clients so much about estate planning and the what-ifs. 

Now, I know estate planning sounds like a complicated process, and we get caught thinking that this is something only for rich people. This is not true. Having a will, a power of attorney and beneficiaries named on our registered assets is the most common estate plan that we need. 

It truly can be simple yet so effective. I’ll go over it all today. It’s a couple of easy steps that you can do to ensure you’ve covered all the estate basis. But I also want to talk about the idea of leaving a legacy behind.

In our office, we have a binder that we give our clients. It’s called The Life Planner. It’s a way to organize your important life documents, your insurance, your will, important contacts and account numbers that someone would need to know. It started mostly because if something happened to me, I thought, “Oh my goodness, my husband doesn’t even know how to pay the utilities.”

He jokes, “Oh yeah, the power would be cut off.” 

I’m like, “Actually, no, it’s on auto payment.” 

He’s like, “Oh, okay.” 

He doesn’t even have the login information because generally one person in a family kind of takes that role in responsibility and hopefully they like it. That’s a whole other episode that we can talk about, sharing the duties and the finances, but it was something important to me.

Then also, the stories of a young couple that passes away and they had never even talked about the what-ifs. So that kind of sparked this life planner binder that we have in the office. It’s a way to express also how you want to live your life and a reminder to fulfill it and go do what you’ve written down in the binder.

There’s a spot in there for asking those kinds of questions and lots more. 

Personally, I think asking the questions of how I’d like to be remembered is what I use as my way to define leaving a legacy. Now it might be different for you. For me, it’s not the money I leave behind. It’s how I lived my life, my values and how I want to be remembered

I’ve actually put it in my life planner because there’s a spot there that I would really love fireworks at my funeral. I love fireworks and I tear up watching them all the time, especially in person. Now I love the real big ones, but I know, and I thought about it. That’s hundreds of thousands of dollars to fulfill my wish if I pass away. 

So I’ll do what the smaller ones, but I definitely need some sort of color and boom, as we joke about it in our house. It’s in the life planner, it’s written down…it’s a healthy conversation. 

The other thing I’ve shared is that I want my ashes to be part of this environment, or in a pot that has a tree seed planted with part of my ashes.

We’re quite open in our house with our conversations. 

Putting your wishes to paper is even more impactful. Maybe you think they’re bizarre conversations that we have, but if you put it on paper, at least then someone can fulfill your wishes. So part of gathering your estate paperwork, like your will, insurances, health directives, is to also gather your beliefs and values as well as maybe your wishes.

Maybe you want fireworks as well, but it’s trying to organize those thoughts for a guide to living life. This can be called your life letter or a personal legacy letter, and you can write it and put it in with everything else.

 I listened to a podcast recently by Simon Sinek. It’s his podcast called, “A Bit of Optimism”.

I love it. You can find it on Apple Podcasts. I listened to episode 22, and this is where he interviews a passenger that was on the plane. It landed in the US in 2009 by the famous Captain Sully. You might remember that he was famous for landing on the Hudson River and miraculously, everyone survived that crash landing.

Simon interviews one of the passengers. His name is Rick, and he shares his near-death experience of being on that flight during that landing and how it transformed his views on business and life. And the moments that he thought he was going to die, he experienced peace of a life well-lived, and he talked about it.

That hit home for me. That is personally why I asked myself, “How do I want to be remembered? What will my legacy be?” 

I want to be at peace…and not only that I want my financial affairs to be organized so that in my last moments, but I can also free up my brain for better thoughts. You don’t want those thoughts of “Geez, where did I put my will?” or I should’ve told Ian how to pay the power bill online, all those cluttered thoughts. 

Now, this sounds a little depressing. I hope it doesn’t, but I really do like to flip estate planning to be more powerful and it can be a tool to feel positive about organizing what is important. For me, it feels good checking this list and then moving on so I can go on and live life.

This is why I think estate planning is vital. Piece of mind, decluttering and also estate planning. Just remember this, it is not just for the rich or complicated. It’s a roadmap for how you want your assets to be distributed. 

Okay. So I’m going to give you a couple of easy steps. There’s four steps, and this will be the checklist of your estate plan.

Number one, just make a list of your assets. That’s your pensions and investments, your insurances, bank accounts and list them out. This is where if you want that life planner, contact me and we can get you one. 

But you can do this yourself as well. Just make a list and then you might want to add in the contacts and phone account numbers for later on.

Then make a list of your debts. The mortgage, your loans, the credit cards that you have, even if there are zero balances. Now find a safe place to store this with the accounts and contact names. This should be locked up because this is how identity and credit card theft happens. 

Number two, the next step is a will. Do you have a will completed? If yes, then read it over and see if it’s still applicable. 

Does it still make sense to you? Is your executor, who you still want to carry out your wishes? The executor is the person that you choose that will fulfill your wishes and administer everything and organize everything after.

I’ve seen a client who is in their late fifties and they still have their parents as executors from when they very first did their will years and years ago. I’m telling you, you probably don’t want someone that is very old to be your executor.

It can be a lot of work and you want to make sure they’ll be around in the future. That’s the key part. You can also choose an alternate for your executor in case they say no, or they have passed on. Don’t forget to name your alternate. 

So that’s your second step is just to A, if you don’t have a will go get one, B, if you do have one, read it over, and ask yourself, “Does this still apply?”

Number three… after your will. I want you to review all of your registered assets and make sure you have a beneficiary listed for your pensions, your RSPs, and your retirement income funds. Talk to your financial planner and have them confirm that the beneficiaries are correct. 

And when you meet with your financial planner, bring a copy of your will and talk about who should be your beneficiaries.

If you have a spouse, you’ll want them as your beneficiary because the registered assets can roll over to them. The same thing goes for joint ownership of a non-registered account and your home. You want it to be simple and easy to just roll over to your spouse. 

If you’re a blended family, your second marriage and there are families on both sides of your second marriage or third doesn’t matter, but it’s you know, different children.

This will take some thought and planning with the financial planner and lawyer to make sure you’ve covered scenarios with each partner’s family considered. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but you do want to sit down and put some thought into it. 

Now here’s another important piece — check your tax-free savings account. If you have a spouse, you want your spouse as successor holder, not necessarily the beneficiary, but the successor holder. 

Have your financial institution check this and confirm that your spouse is on file on your tax-free savings account as successor holder.

This means if pass away, your TFSA will just be able to pass on to theirs and be added to it. It can be over the limit because it had to come from a spouse that passed away. Otherwise, if they’re a beneficiary, it gets paid out to them and then they can’t add it into their TFSA. They still get the proceeds but there is a more tax-efficient way to do it for your spouse. 

Okay. Number four. Your will should have a power of attorney (I call them superpowers). The power of attorney is someone you name to look after your financial affairs. There’s also a power of attorney for health decisions.

You want to make sure that you have both — someone to look after your financial affairs if you can no longer and someone that can help make health decisions for you if you are no longer of sound mind, or you are in the hospital. You need someone to make those decisions on your behalf.

They should be a family member or someone that you really trust to carry out your wishes. 

So that’s it. These are the easy, basic four things of an estate plan. Reviewing these and using something like our life planner or having your own planner will help you feel like you’ve got your stuff together and organized.

Not everything has to be done at once, but you definitely want a commonplace to store everything, meaning that you don’t have to write down your legacy and how you want to live your life all at the same time as jotting down your account numbers and all your assets. 

This is something that should be on your to-do list.

Don’t feel overwhelmed with it. It’s something to come back and visit, jot a few things down and finish it. I joke in our office, when I talk with people, I’m like, “Sit down, have a glass of wine, do some work on this binder and then watch a comedy and then come back to it. You should only need to revisit this from time to time.”

Once you get this done, it feels so good. The only time you want to maybe make a change is to revisit if a major life event happens. You can just reread it, see and say, “Okay, is this still applicable?” 

By doing this organization, it makes reviewing easy in the future. That’s it — these are easy steps.

This is an estate plan. It does not have to be super complicated. I leave you today with the hope that you live your life with purpose, write it down, how you wish to be remembered, and hopefully you can answer the question…” What legacy will I leave behind?” 

Send me a note if you have any questions. If you would like access to this binder or the life planner, let me know. Take care, my friends and we’ll talk soon.