Everyone needs an estate plan, says Jamie Golombek, managing director of tax and estate planning with CIBC Private Wealth Management.

“If you own any investments; real estate; a car; you need an estate plan to be able to decide how you’re going to pass them on to your loved ones, with minimal worries.”

So be prepared to educate clients, because chances are, they’re unaware.

A CIBC poll found about half of respondents didn’t have even basic wills. Of those, 46% were baby boomers, aged 45 to 60, and 10% were seniors older than 65.

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“You would think that in these life stages where people had accumulated the majority of their assets, and they are approaching wealth transfer, that would be the key time to have a will,” says Golombek.

Having a will is especially crucial if clients wish to provide for dependants, elderly parents, children and spouses, with minimal red tape.

If you need to convince clients, tell them: “If you die without a will, your estate will be distributed in accordance with the provincial or territorial law of where you resided at the time of death,” says Golombek.

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And, without expert planning clients run the risk of not providing sufficiently for dependants. Poor wording opens up the will to being challenged in court.

If clients do have a will, make sure it and their powers of attorney are up to date.

“Some advisors will even ask for a copy just to make sure the client is on top of it,” he says. “Although the advisor may not be qualified to make comments, at least she can ensure it is a valid will and the names of the beneficiaries in that will are still current.”

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