Wills & Estate Planning

I provide the following services for Wills and Estate Planning:

Will preparation: 

A Will can be as simple or as complex as your needs and wishes dictate.

  • Set up Trusts for spouses, children, grandchildren for effective estate management, ensure the funds are not depleted quickly and are available for the long term needs of your beneficiaries;
  • Power of Attorney, Enduring Power of Attorney and Personal Directive;
  • Estate Planning issues regarding: marriage, divorce, common-law relationships, children, step-children, adopted children, estranged children, dependent children, adult children;
  • Mental capacity and incapacity, undue influence;

Wills:

Last Will and TestamentA Will is a legally binding document that sets out your wishes on how, to whom and how much of, your assets, debts, loans, etc. (your estate) are distributed when you leave this world.   No, you can’t take it with you.   In order to be effective and legally binding on your executor and beneficiaries, the Will must be properly prepared and executed in accordance with the rules set out in legislation.

Everyone should prepare a Will to reflect their own individual circumstances and goals.

If you do not have a Will or you do not have a properly prepared and valid Will, then your estate is distributed in accordance with legislation that states who gets what share of your estate and when they receive it.  Chances are this may not be what you wanted.

In your Will you will name the executor. The executor is the Trustee of your estate until it is distributed to your beneficiaries.  You may also name a Guardian for any minor children or any children that may be dependent adults.

You can also set out how your choice of funeral arrangements, celebration life, how your remains are to be dealt with, cremation, choice of burial plots, if you have a pre-paid arrangement, etc. 

A Will should be reviewed at least every five (5) years or so to see if it is still relevant or if there are some changes you would like to make.

You should also review your Will if there are changes in your family composition, family status, etc.  If you get married, are contemplating marriage or are separated or divorcing, your Will should be reviewed and changed as soon as possible.  If your relationship changes with any beneficiaries, you should review your Will.

Together with your accountant, tax advisor, we can also address any tax saving or capital gains issues that may arise on your death to try and lessen the burden of these costs on your estate so that the beneficiaries may receive a larger inheritance.

Codicil:

A Codicil is a short addendum to your Will that changes some paragraphs of your Will.  It is useful if you want to keep most of your Will as it is written, but want to change one or two parts of it: i.e. name another executor, add another beneficiary, change the percentage of distribution, give a specific item to a person, etc.

Powers of Attorney and Personal Directives:

Planning for incapacity, either through illness or accident, is a very important part of estate planning.  If you do not properly prepare an Enduring Power of Attorney and Personal Directive (sometimes referred to as a Healthcare Directive, Green Sleeve, Goals of Care designation or Living Will), your family has to make court applications to obtain an order to make decisions for you and handle your affairs.

Power of Attorney:

68916_4016A Power of Attorney gives another person the authority to handle your property and finances – assets, debts, bank accounts, real estate, leases, investments, etc.

The Power of Attorney can be for a limited, specific purpose and it can also have a deadline or expiry time on it.  Or, the Power of Attorney can be broad and general and indefinite.  However, a standard Power of Attorney terminates when you lose the capacity to understand what is going on, or lose capacity to deal with your own affairs.

With a Power of Attorney, the person you name as your Attorney has the authority to do many things related to your finances, such as write cheques on your accounts, sell your land, lease and mortgage your property, discuss your utility accounts with service providers, check into your government accounts, run your business, file your taxes, sell your assets and obtain loans in your name.  However, the Power of Attorney sets up a trust, and your named Attorney is a trustee, they can only handle your assets in a manner that is solely for your benefit and your needs, and the Attorney handle your assets in a way that benefits other people or themselves.

Most people use Powers of Attorney if they are going to be out of the province or country for a period of time and need someone to look after their affairs, or to do something specific while they are away or temporarily incapable of doing something (i.e. bed-ridden), such as sign off on a real estate sale or purchase.  Powers of Attorney can also be used to name someone to take care of your affairs, such as government accounts, if wish to have a relative or friend take care of these for you.

In Estate Planning, an Enduring Power of Attorney crucial to have in place.  An Enduring Power of Attorney is different than a standard Power of Attorney because it continues to be in effect even after you lose capacity (physical, mental or both) to deal with your own affairs.

An Enduring Power of Attorney has to be executed while you still have capacity; after you lose capacity your family will require a court order to obtain the authority to handle your financial affairs.  The cost of being prepared ahead of time and signing an Enduring Power of Attorney is a very small fraction of the cost involved in getting a court Order for Trusteeship (Represented Adult Application) to name someone to handle your financial affairs.  The cost of the court order would have to be paid for by your family or from your estate which takes away from the money available for your care and from the inheritance you would rather leave to your family.  The cost of preparing this in advance is a small fraction of the cost of a court application.

Personal Directive (sometimes referred to as a Healthcare Directive, Green Sleeve, Goals of Care Designation, or Living Will):

A Personal Directive names an Agent who will have authority to make decisions regarding your healthcare, surgeries, medical procedures, where you may live, who may associate with you, a do not resuscitate, withdrawal of treatment directives; basically any decision regarding your health and well-being and is non-financial.

Like an Enduring Power of Attorney, if you do not have a valid Personal Directive, then your family has to apply to the courts to get an order giving them the authority to make decisions on your behalf.  The cost of being prepared ahead of time and signing a Personal Directive is a small fraction of the cost involved in getting a court Order for Guardianship (Represented Adult Application).

There are a number of ways to draft a Personal Directive, you should discuss and chose what works best for you and your family.  For instance, in the Personal Directive you can specifically tell your Agent exactly what you would like for healthcare, living accommodations, organ donations, do not resuscitate requests, withdrawal of treatment, etc.  Alternatively, you can leave the Personal Directive open and general, and let your Agent make their decisions based on their knowledge of you, what is best for you at the time and in consultation with doctors.  There are pros and cons to both approaches.

If you restrict your Personal Directive today with specific instructions, then with advances in medical technology, you may be limiting your Agent’s choices in the future.  If you are general in your Personal Directive, you are putting the burden of the decision on your family instead of telling them in advance exactly what you want.

I can assist you to properly prepare for what lies ahead in taking care of yourself, your loved ones and your estate as you desire it to be done.  Please contact us to discuss

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