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Disclaimer: This article on estate planning in Ontario is intended for the purposes of providing information only and is to be used only for the purposes of guidance. This article is not intended to be relied upon as the giving of legal advice and does not purport to be exhaustive.
It has been said that estate planning is a gift to those you love, and we wholeheartedly agree. We know that no one wants to think about the end of our lives. However, we cannot overstate the importance of having these conversations and making these plans.
Too often, we have seen the pain and grief of a loss compounded by the stress and overwhelm of poor estate planning.
Planning for the end of your life means taking into consideration your unique circumstances. Our lives are all different, and the plans for our estates must reflect that.
This article outlines, at a very high level, how different factors influence your estate planning. Of course, we would be happy to speak further about your situation. You can book a consultation here for more information on estate planning in Ontario.
Estate Planning in Ontario: An Overview
Estate planning in Ontario is governed primarily by the Succession Law Reform Act (“SLRA”). Its last major update was in the 1970s; however, further changes have received Royal Assent, with some key amendments expected to become law in January 2022. We will discuss those changes in detail in a future article.
Estate Planning in Ontario: Your Relationships
Congratulations! You got married – we wish you many happy years together.
However, under Ontario’s current legislation, if you had a will before you got married, then your entire will has now been revoked unless you made it with marriage in mind. What does that mean for you? Your will may have had provisions protecting your children or donating to causes that you’re passionate about, but these are no longer valid.
If you recently got married or will be married shortly, it is worthwhile to look at your will. Fortunately, this is one of the changes being made to the SLRA. As of January 2022, marriage will not revoke a will, aligning Ontario with many other provinces.
In a common-law relationship
While you may have been with your partner longer than most married couples, Ontario’s legislation does not grant the same rights to common-law partners. Suppose you die intestate [definition: a person who died without having made a will]. Your common-law partner does not have a claim to your estate unless one of the following claims are filed: filing a dependency claim or filing a claim for unjust enrichment, both of which involve litigation (i.e. a lawsuit).
Of course, this is an unnecessary strain and expense. It is much more prudent and practical to have a will in place that recognizes your partner and provides for them in the event of your death.
As the SLRA currently stands, a separated spouse still stands to inherit a portion of the deceased spouse’s estate. That means that your home could automatically pass to your estranged spouse, instead of to your children or even a new common-law partner.
However, as of January 2022, those portions of the SLRA will be amended. The legislation defines situations that deem a couple to be separated. In those instances, a surviving spouse would be treated the same as if the couple was divorced.
Estate Planning in Ontario: Your Children
One key reason to have estate planning in place is to protect your minor children. Therefore, selecting a guardian is an important decision and one that should be given careful thought.
Generally speaking, a surviving parent would gain full custody of minor children. However, if there is no surviving parent, then other family members need to apply to the courts to gain custody. This could cause strife amongst your family if there are multiple claims and disagreements about who should be your children’s guardians.
You will also want to consider who will have guardianship over your estate’s assets. Children cannot inherit an estate, so a person will need to be appointed to care for those assets until the children reach the age of majority. That may, or may not, be the same person who has physical custody of the children.
Your children may be older, so their needs may be different. You will not have to think about a guardian; however, there are still decisions that you must make.
While an adult is legally defined as 18-years old, is that the age that you want your child to inherit your estate? Many parents consider their children’s maturity level and put a graduated trust in place. This means that a portion of the estate is released at certain points. It is a wise move that protects your child from the poor decisions of their young adulthood.
Are your children married? Would you want their spouses to inherit a portion of your estate, or should it pass on to any grandchildren? These are questions that must be asked and answered.
The traditional two-parent family is becoming increasingly less common, and complex “stepfamilies” are on the rise. If this is true for you, this needs to be reflected in your estate planning.
For example, you may have a child from a previous relationship. You get married but then pass away, and your will leaves your estate to your spouse (your child’s step-parent). The step-parent passes, but that estate is left to a new spouse or their children. Your child is not protected.
Another example, you and your spouse both have children from previous relationships. You both have wills in place that leave everything to each other and then are divided amongst all the children. You pass, and your relationship between your children and spouse sours. The step-parent amends their will so that their children, and not yours, inherit their estate. Again, your children are not protected.
While we hate to think about such horrible scenarios, it is a disservice to our children if we do not protect them after we are gone.
While you may consider your pet as part of your family, they are property in the eyes of estate legislation. Therefore, if you would like to plan for your pet’s care if you pass, it will have to be laid out specifically in your will.
Be Kind – Plan Ahead
We know that you love your family and want to do what’s best for them. Therefore, give them the gift of estate planning so that their loss does not have to include dealing with lengthy legal matters.
Our firm helps individuals match their estate planning to their lives. If you want to revisit your estate planning, please reach out to us here [link]. Our team would be more than happy to speak with you.
Disclaimer: This article on how to choose a law firm in Ontario is intended for the purpose of providing information only. It is to be used only for the purposes of guidance. This article is not intended to be relied upon as the giving of legal advice and does not purport to be exhaustive. Updated as of January 2024.
Choosing a law firm in Ontario is no small feat. The Law Society of Ontario reports over 57,000 lawyer licenses, so how can you choose?
There are several factors to consider, but first, it is important to note the impact of this decision. Whether it’s ensuring that your last wishes are protected or making sure that your first home purchase runs smoothly, you turn to a lawyer to protect the parts of your life that you hold dear.
How to Choose a Law Firm in Ontario
However, there are factors that you can consider when choosing a law firm in Ontario. Here are just four to think about:
- Credentials and accomplishments
- Compatibility and Core Values
- Client Reviews
Credentials and Accomplishments
At a minimum, all lawyers in Ontario must be licensed with the Law Society of Ontario. However, look for other signs that your lawyer is respected within their field. For example, are they members of professional organizations?
Have they been recognized or been recipients of any awards? Where have they gained their experience? How long have they been in practice?
Consider your lawyer’s background. For example, consider Beeksma Law’s founder, Shayna Beeksma. After receiving her education at one of Canada’s top law schools, Shayna Beeksma gained experience at Gowling WLG, one of Canada’s most prestigious law firms.
Additionally, she has supplemented that high-caliber pedigree by practicing with a boutique and mid-sized law firm, gaining well-rounded experience that has served her well since she opened her firm in 2018. Shayna has combined her Bay Street pedigree with a Main Street sensibility to her clients’ benefits.
Besides being a sharp legal advocate, Shayna Beeksma is an active member of her community. Some of the organizations that she works with include:
- Rotary Club of Hamilton AM (Current Board Member)
- Telling Tales (Current Board Member)
- Reverend John C. Holland Awards (Beeksma Law is the annual sponsor of the Lincoln Alexander Award, awarded to a Black high school or postsecondary student for breaking down barriers in the community)
- Mamas & Co. (Mentor, Guest Conference Speaker, and Guest Coach for Mom Bosses)
- Pollinators (a vibrant community for female entrepreneurs)
- The Entrepreneur Nation (Regional Chair, Hamilton)
- Hamilton Law Association (CPD Subcommittee Member)
- Ontario Bar Association
- Advocates Society
- Canadian Association of Black Lawyers
Shayna Beeksma is committed to the practice of the law and improving the profession as a whole.
In Ontario, all lawyers are barristers and solicitors. What does that mean? All lawyers in Ontario can handle the transactional and planning portions of the law, along with the litigation or court-related aspects. Each lawyer chooses the areas of law and the types of services that they offer.
Some firms thrive in handling disputes, while others shine in preparing transactions. Yet others, such as Beeksma Law, provide comprehensive and well-rounded legal advice in both spheres.
Leaning on her wealth of legal experience, Shayna uses her keen legal skills to advocate for her clients. She has appeared at various levels of court, including the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. She has also argued cases before the Divisional Court, the Ontario Court of Appeal, and the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board.
Besides being a fierce advocate, Shayna is strategic and effective in estate planning, structuring business transactions, and handling real estate transactions. Her experience allows her to prevent issues before they arise. Of course, the very best way to avoid disagreements is to ensure that terms are clear throughout the process.
Consider the ease of working with a law firm in Ontario that provides full advice and expertise in an area of law. Beeksma Law provides such knowledge in the areas of Wills & Estates, Business Law, and Real Estate, whether it is planning and transactional matters or any litigation related to those areas.
Compatibility and Core Values
When seeking legal advice, you need to turn to someone you can trust. Therefore, finding the right fit is incredibly important. This is especially true when seeking a lawyer to deal with challenges, such as facing a loss.
Meeting with a lawyer will give you a great opportunity to understand whether you are compatible. However, ask questions and be wary of any lawyer who guarantees an outcome – especially in litigation! There are too many unknowns for a reasonable lawyer to predict with certainty what a court will decide.
Additionally, choose a lawyer and law firm that truly cares about their clients and about what is best for them. When you face times of trouble, especially if your visit to a lawyer is preceded by tragedy, you want someone compassionate and kind.
As mentioned above, Beeksma Law is active within the legal community and committed to improving the profession. Shayna and her team strongly believe in ensuring that justice is accessible to all. Furthermore, Beeksma Law believes in achieving high results for their clients: excellence is truly their minimum standard.
The best way to know what it’s like to work with a lawyer or law firm in Ontario is to ask someone who has already been there! Ask your family and friends for referrals and review online reviews.
Look for testimonials such as:
“There were a lot of unknowns about [buying my first house], so your patience with me, your willingness to share and explain things in simpler ways and your shared excitement were a huge blessing.”
“I cannot say how professional and compassionate Beeksma Law is. We needed someone who would do all the lawyer stuff for us, but we also needed someone who genuinely cared. That sums up Beeksma Law for me.”
“We were always confident that our real estate deals were being handled perfectly…I would not hesitate to recommend Beeksma Law to anyone who wants to be sure that their real estate transactions will be handled by the best in the business.”
Beeksma Law and Shayna Beeksma have also been recognized by the Hamilton Spectator and by Hamilton Community News. They were voted the Platinum Winners of the 2019 & 2020 Hamilton Spectator’s Readers’ Choice Awards in the law firm, real estate law firm, lawyer and real estate lawyer categories. Additionally, Shayna Beeksma was voted the 2021 Platinum Winner of the Hamilton Community News’ Readers’ Choice Awards in the lawyer category.
Carefully Consider Your Options When Choosing a Law Firm in Ontario
Choosing a lawyer for your business, real estate, and estate planning is a serious matter. However, by considering the above four factors, you can confidently have your legal issues resolved by someone you enjoy working with and trust.
If Beeksma Law has the competence, credentials, core values, and client reviews that align with you, then we welcome the opportunity to work with you. Book an online consultation, and we will be happy to speak with you.