Your Estate Documents

Being an executor of a will can be a difficult job, particularly if the deceased is a loved one. You can make your executor's job much easier, and less painful, by creating clear, effective estate documents.

At minimum, your estate documents should include:

  • A will, enduring power of attorney, personal directive
  • Estate plan: personal wishes and instructions
  • Personal and employer life insurance policies or statements
  • Credit card life insurance policies
  • Other insurance policies, e.g., property, vehicle, medical
  • Pension, RRSP, investments, bank accounts and statements of other assets owned
  • Real estate documents
  • Employment and/or business documents
  • Loan documents
  • Statements of outstanding debts
  • A list of financial advisors and important contacts

Assemble a ’What If…’ File, a financial emergency kit of documents, contingency plans and contact information that your family members or executor need to know, if something happens to you. Complete the What If… File: Document Locator to leave a record of where to find these documents. Let your executor know where it is located. That way, your executor will be able to locate all necessary documents and know whom to call for any additional information.

Planning Strategies

Keep your will and other documents in a safe place (such as a safety deposit box or fire-proof safe). Don’t leave the originals at home or in the office. One set should be retained by you and, if appropriate, another given to your executor. Indicate on the copies where the original signed documents are kept and tell your executor where they are. Where available, take advantage of placing your will in your province’s will registry, if it has one.

What About Digital Assets?

There may not be a legal definition for certain digital assets you own. For practical purposes they include:

  • Any digital content
  • Emails
  • Online financial statements
  • Third-party sites holding your personal information (such as banks, credit cards, PayPal, Amazon accounts, and so on)
  • Social media accounts holding your personal information
  • Purchased copyrighted material (such as books, music, movies)

Planning Strategies

  • Document your digital assets. List all accounts, IDs and passwords plus security questions.
  • Put a password management application in place.
  • Assess the security threat should your computer be hacked.
  • Make sure your executor has knowledge of and access to the list.
  • Consider whether multiple executors should be used (one for business records, one for digital records, one for financial records, and so on).
  • Give written authority to your executor and attorney to deal with your digital assets.
  • A power of attorney is also needed for digital assets (to access, pay electronic bills and so on).

It is illegal to impersonate a deceased person. A spouse or adult child can’t continue using an account in your name.