Most of us have a lot going on in our lives at any one time – at least doing and planning things we either prefer or must do – like vacations and going to work. As a result we sometimes overlook doing and planning the things that aren’t on our immediate agenda. While we think nothing of going grocery shopping to prepare our meals, we are less inclined to accommodate provisions for less compelling matters.
April of each year is customarily time for most people to file their annual income tax return with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The young and the old frequently make the mistake of avoiding a chartered accountant to complete their return because they think it is too costly (which usually it is not – especially because it is often a tax deductible expense particularly if you are in private business or have investments) or because they think it is easy to do (which usually it is not – unless you like being reassessed on a regular basis). Delegation of tax advice to a chartered accountant (not a mere bookkeeper) can have the following further advantages:
. will ensure you have the latest advice including the advantages of income splitting between you and your spouse or partner;
. a ready source of record keeping for future analysis either by you, your family, power of attorney, executor, lawyer or the government;
. an accounting firm will likely be around as long as you so there is continuity and perpetuity;
. an accounting firm will have liability insurance for professional errors and omissions;
. if you become disabled, ill, incompetent or die, there is someone at hand to manage this business detail.
Most home owners have fire insurance as a matter of course, either because they want to protect their home and contents or because the mortgage company demands it.
Tenants are less inclined to get contents insurance, usually because they think their stuff is not worth the price of the premiums. That is a mistake. Get the protection and avoid the embarrassment and surprise of refitting your possessions. Besides it may be a term of your rental contract that you have liability coverage.
Notify your insurer if you plan to vacate your premises even for short periods (naturally other than reasonable daily absences). You may be required to have someone check the premises during your absence on a regular basis. This applies to both tenants and owners, house or apartment.
If you spend vacation in someone else’s home (either by invitation or as part of a business undertaking) do not assume the owner’s insurance will protect you from personal liability for loss or damage (relating to either your own or the owner’s property). If you have arranged the vacation through an agent, you may be entitled to short-term coverage. Perhaps the owner’s policy can be modified to extend coverage to tenants.
Last Will and Testament
Do not try to do your own Will. Get a lawyer. You will have the benefit of professional advice and errors and omissions insurance. The Will itself will make certain who gets your stuff; and it will be a lot easier and less expensive for your beneficiaries.
If you have recently separated, do not assume your estranged spouse or partner is automatically eliminated from any claim to your estate. Get your new Will; then ensure a written Separation Agreement is signed by both Parties. Change the deed, bank account and insurance information while you’re at it.
A will is revoked by marriage. Even if you previously cohabited and had a will at that time, do not presume that the old will continues in effect after subsequent marriage.
Power of Attorney
A Will is for after you are dead (executor and beneficiary). A Power of Attorney (POA) is for you while alive but unable or unwilling to handle your affairs (donor and attorney). The POA should cover both property management (financial affairs) and personal care (medical matters including “living will” or “do not resuscitate”).
Prearranging a funeral is not the same as prepaying a funeral. Either or both are possible. Normally it is only older people whose death is imminent who prepay a funeral, mostly as a convenience for their heirs. Younger people should at least prearrange their funeral to ensure that arrangements are in place and that their wishes are abided. Funeral homes obviously welcome prearrangement even when nothing is prepaid. Technically the prearrangement is not binding upon your executor but it is customarily honoured.
You may be able to avoid burial cost in part by donating your remains to a hospital for organs or educational purposes.
Buying a plot in a cemetery may be a useful and inexpensive gift for the person who has everything. Most cemetery plots include perpetual care so it is a once-in-a-lifetime expense.
The best person to write your obituary is you. If you have the privilege of a long life, it is not likely that anyone else will either know or remember what was important to you. Obituaries – like so many of the other arrangements discussed – are not for you but for the benefit, knowledge and interest of others. They can form an important historical record and perhaps a distinction for your heirs.
Give the draft obit to your executor so it can be used immediately upon your death for publication. Don’t file it with your Will.
International Driving Permit
An International Driving Permit (IDP), often incorrectly referred to as an International’s Driver’s License, is valid in 150 countries worldwide. It serves as both a driver’s license and ID, containing your name, photo and driver information (often in multiple languages). An IDP is available through most automobile associations (such as Canadian Automobile Association).
If you travel by public transportation, keep the IDP in your suitcase. If you travel by car, keep it in the glove box. A photograph of the IDP on you Smart Phone will provide further convenience. The same advice applies to travel insurance documentation.
If you are self-employed you should consider disability insurance. Do not assume Canada Pension Plan will cover short-term disability (such as 3-month recuperative periods). Disability insurance is more compelling for you than life insurance.
Do not assume your employer provides disability insurance. Ask and get written confirmation.