Although having a high-value estate helps ensure your heirs' financial security, properly protecting its value is a crucial step in giving yourself complete control over your assets. Without proper planning, your heirs could be left with significant burdens as the estate passes through probate and becomes subject to estate tax. Fortunately, there are several ways to help protect an estate.

One key estate administration tool is an enduring power of attorney. This allows you to appoint a representative, who will be responsible for making decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. It is important to choose someone you trust to follow your wishes and make decisions that will be in your best interests.

You can also decrease your estate's tax liability by making gifts to charities in your will. Alternatively, you could make donations through your RSP, RRIF or insurance policies by means of a beneficiary designation. This qualifies you for government credits that allow you to greatly reduce your estate's tax liabilities. It should also be noted that life insurance benefits are passed directly to your heirs upon your death tax-free, allowing them to fund your estate's tax liabilities.

Making your estate smaller can also be an effective way of protecting its value. There are various ways of accomplishing this, such as segregated funds and non-registered GICs, which allow you to name a beneficiary and bypass your estate. You can also add your spouse to non-registered assets to reduce the size of your estate.

Source: Parksville Qualicum Beach News, "Protect the value of your estate," Stuart Kirk, Oct. 11, 2011