Appoint an executor – the executor will be the person carrying out your wishes; they may also appoint professional trustees (who can be lawyers or professional trust companies for more onerous work of administering an estate);

  • Has authority to file final tax return on behalf of the deceased;
  • Usually will have authority to pay funeral costs;
  • Intention is to endow executor with broad powers and authorities, especially with smaller estates where there are relatively few assets (real estate, bank accounts)

Appoint someone to act as minor children’s guardian

  • You have right to appoint a guardian of your child’s person (a caretaker), but that guardian does not automatically have right to be guardian of the child’s property; this must be done by application to the court; your wishes are taken into consideration
  • The alternative is to appoint someone a trustee of the assets – to manage the assets and to pay out funds as required – usually only when you have more substantial assets and you have concerns about the guardian’s abilities to manage the assets

Prior to divvying up your assets, you can designate beneficiaries for your RRSPs, mutual funds, any kinds of annuities where you can designate a beneficiary, and insurance policies (this is also best done with advice from a financial adviser)

  • This has the benefit of avoiding probate fees (“estate administration tax”) on the value of those assets, as they no longer flow into your estate; but rather flow to the beneficiaries directly.

If there are grown beneficiaries with spouses, you can ensure the estate only passes to the beneficiary and not their spouse, and if the spouses divorce or separate, you can exclude your gift from calculation of net family property.