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Estate planning for life stages

September 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Estate Planning, Insurance

As we age, our estate planning needs change.  Here are some things to consider at different stages.

18+ and still dependent on parents

You might think parents can make health care decisions for you, but this changes when you turn 18.  With the accident rate high for this age group, families should consider having a health care power of attorney signed by the young adults to grant power to parents in case of emergencies.  Since you usually have no significant assets, a will is not as important for you at this stage.

Single and employed

Even though you do not have dependents, you likely have a group insurance plan at work that has a life insurance component.  Ensure that you have named a beneficiary to avoid estate complications. It is common to name a parent at this stage in life.

In a relationship

Even if you are not married, there can be legal entanglements and you may wish to leave assets or grant authority to your significant other instead of a parent.  It would be good to have simple wills prepared, be clear about powers of attorney for health care and financial matters, and consider whether a cohabitation agreement is needed.  If you buy a property together be aware of how the joint ownership is identified as there are different types of joint ownership.

Just married

When a couple is married and especially if there are children, there are default legal rules that kick in if you have not specified otherwise.  It is good to have a will and powers of attorney prepared and if you have kids, make sure you have made your wishes clear about who you want to raise them if you die, and name a trustee to handle money for them until they are adults.

Breaking up

When a relationship ends, you should revisit all your legal documents and likely change beneficiaries on life insurance and registered plans like RRSP’s, TFSA’s and pensions.  In cases with children, you may have to maintain life insurance until the youngest child reaches a specified age or finishes education.


Since you have baggage from before, you may want to prepare a marriage contract and your will may be more complex, making arrangements for old and new family members.  In these cases it is crucial to have good legal advice to avoid conflicts and problems later.


Everything in life changes and your estate planning likely does too.  Unless you have made very careful plans first, your will and powers of attorney likely need an update.

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