February, 2023

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5 Misconceptions About Estate Planning in Ontario

Disclaimer: This article on estate planning 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.

When it comes to estate planning, there are many misconceptions out there that have rooted themselves in people’s minds. These misconceptions can be costly and dangerous, so in this article, we are going to set the record straight. 

At Beeksma Law, we believe that estate planning is too important to be overlooked. Estate planning involves preparing for your possible incapacitation or death. It can help ensure your wishes are carried out in a way that meets your goals. If you want to talk about your wishes, please book a call with our team today. 

Misconception #1: I don’t need a will. 

Yes you do. 

About 51% of Canadians do not have a will. Many people think that having a will is only truly important if you are older (25% of Canadians) or have a lot of assets (23%). This could not be further from the truth. Everyone, regardless of their age or financial status, should have an up-to-date will that outlines their wishes.

Here’s the reality: Being young, unfortunately, does not make you immune to death or incapacitation. Not having a lot of assets will not prevent complications with distributing what you do have. Dying intestate (without a will) means that your estate be divided according to Ontario’s laws (such as the Succession Law Reform Act). It also means that your estate will be tied up with the courts longer and be more complicated.

Misconception #2: I only need a will.

Do you have powers of attorney for personal care or for property?

We covered this in a previous article. Simply put, a power of attorney for personal care is a legal document that appoints someone you trust to make decisions about your health care and personal matters if you become mentally incapable of making those decisions for yourself.

Not only are these documents typically overlooked, but they are actually more important than a will in many cases. Practically speaking, it is much easier to prove that someone is dead than that someone is incapacitated.  If you need someone to handle things on your behalf, they will be held up without a power of attorney in place.

(While we are talking about powers of attorney, it is also important to address another misconception. While there can be holograph wills (or handwritten wills), there is no provision in Ontario for holograph powers of attorney.)

Misconception #3: Will kits will do the trick.

We know that the cost of preparing your will and powers of attorney stops many people from hiring an estate lawyer. In fact, you may think that a will kit is the best way to avoid those costs. However, each person and their estate is different and it is vitally important that your legal documents meet all of the guidelines for your specific situation.

Will kits are a one-size-fits-all approach, which means you may be leaving out vital information or making mistakes that may result in confusion, disputes and estate litigation after you’re gone. An estate lawyer is going to know where these complexities are and be able to give you solid advice on  how best to move forward.

For example, let’s talk about those power of attorneys. Some document kits would require that your power of attorney get an assessment done to confirm that you are incapacitated before being able to make decisions on your behalf. However, in the meantime, no one will be able to access your bank account for possibly a month or two. 

In that practical scenario, is that what you want for your power of attorney? Does it make sense to have them be able to use their authority immediately? It will depend on your unique circumstances, which is something we will talk about while preparing your documents. 

Misconception #4: Once I’m done, I’m done.

Your will plan is never going to be a “once and done” project. It is important to review your estate plan regularly. Your life, financial and family circumstances can change over time. Therefore, it is essential that your legal documents are updated accordingly to make sure they remain valid.

We always recommend that you review your estate plan every few year (at the very least), You should also review it after major life changes (i.e. marriage, divorce, having a baby, or the death of a relative or beneficiary).

Also, think about who you appointed as your executor (which we will talk about below) and your powers of attorney. Are they able and willing to act in this capacity?

Misconception #5: Anyone can be my executor.

An executor’s role is vital in settling an estate. Your executor is responsible for seeking out, preserving and managing the assets of your estate. They must determine how much debt you owe and use the assets of the estate to pay off those debts, as well as file your taxes.

This role is not one to be taken lightly and it really is not for everyone. It is commonly referred to as “the year of the executor” because your estate will take up a considerable amount of time for a year after you pass away.  Executors can be family members, friends or professional executors such as lawyers, trust companies, etc. Just make sure it is someone you trust who is willing and able to take on this responsibility.

Estate Planning You Can Trust

At Beeksma Law, we believe that estate planning is too important to be overlooked. Our team of experienced professionals can help ensure you have all the documents in place for after your death or incapacitation, and provide you with peace of mind during this difficult time. We would be happy to discuss any questions you may have. Please book a call with our team today.

Announcement: New Family Law Services from Beeksma Law

Disclaimer: This article on our family law services 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.

At Beeksma Law, we serve and advocate for families and businesses with their legal needs. 

Beeksma Law will now handle preparing cohabitation agreements and uncontested divorces. Book a consultation today to discuss preparing these documents for your family. 

What are cohabitation agreements? 

A cohabitation agreement in Ontario is a legal contract between two unmarried individuals who live together in a domestic partnership. The agreement outlines the rights and responsibilities of each partner in regard to their shared property, assets, and finances. 

You would draft a cohabitation agreement to provide clarity and security for both partners and help resolve any disputes.

In Ontario, cohabitation agreements can cover a wide range of issues. This includes dividing property, support payments, and decision-making authority in the event you separate. It is important to note that a lawyer should carefully draft and review a cohabitation agreement to ensure it is enforceable. It is also important for both partners to fully understand the terms and conditions of the agreement before signing it.

What are uncontested divorces? 

Uncontested divorce in Ontario refers to a divorce proceeding where both parties agree on all the terms of their separation, including the division of property, support payments, and the custody of any children. In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree to file a joint application for divorce, which is a simpler and quicker process compared to a contested divorce. Uncontested divorces are often less time-consuming and less stressful for all parties involved.

The process of obtaining an uncontested divorce in Ontario begins with both parties filing a joint application for divorce with the court. Subsequently, you would file that alongside a separation agreement, explicitly outlining the terms of the separation. It’s imperative that the agreement complies with Ontario law and receives signatures from both parties. If, upon review, the court finds the joint application and the separation agreement satisfactory, it will proceed to grant the divorce order.

Why Beeksma Law? 

At Beeksma Law, we pride ourselves in providing excellence for our clients. Our pedigree, experience and breadth of expertise means that our clients are getting legal representation that 

While we largely handle estate law, family law and estate planning often intersect. Having your cohabitation agreement or divorce align with your estate plan makes for fewer complexities after you pass away. 

To learn more, please book a consultation with our team today. We would be happy to discuss your unique circumstances and needs. 

Celebrity Estate Mistakes That You Can Avoid

Disclaimer: This article on celebrity estate mistakes 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.

Given that their estates are worth millions of dollars, you would think that they would have teams of lawyers and estate planners preparing immaculate documents. However, the truth is celebrities also make estate planning mistakes just like us regular folk. 

However, you do not have to make those mistakes. Having an estate legal team like Beeksma Law preparing your estate plan, you can sidestep these issues and leave your family with the greatest gift of all: peace of mind. Contact us to book your consultation today!

Let’s consider five well-known names who made estate planning mistakes and how you can avoid them yourself. 

People at a concert illustrating celebrities that we look up to - however, they make estate mistakes too!

Prince

The music industry was shocked when Prince passed away in 2016, but it was even more astounding that he did not have a will in place. The courts then had to figure out how to divide his $300 million estate. The courts resolved the issue six years later, surely costing the estate millions of dollars in legal fees.

The lesson? 

You may be thinking, “If I had a $300 million estate, then I would have a will.” However, regardless of the size of your estate, you should still have your wishes down in writing. In the absence of a will, your estate will be tied up by the courts until it can be resolved. It can create confusion and heartache for your loved ones, as they navigate their grief and the legal system.

Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger did have a will when he passed away in 2008. However, he had prepared that will before his relationship with Michelle Williams and before the birth of their daughter, Matilda Rose. He had listed his parents and sister as his beneficiaries, instead of his child, and they inherited his estate. 

The lesson? 

Regularly review your estate plan. We recommend updating your estate plan, at a minimum, on an annual basis, as well as when you experience a major life change. Those life changes could include getting married, divorced, or becoming a parent, as well as less obvious changes such as starting a business or buying a vacation home. 

Casey Kasem

Doctors diagnosed the radio celebrity with Lewy Body Dementia in 2007, and he died in 2014. Strained family relationships led to fights about his care and how to approach the end of his life. 

The lesson

A will is not the only estate planning document that you need as part of your estate plan. Everyone should have two powers of attorney: one for their personal care and one for their property. While you may be young and healthy today, you need these documents to prepare for an event wherein you may incapacitated and would need someone else to step in and make decisions for you. 

Phillip Seymour Hoffman 

Phillip Seymour Hoffman avoided trusts for his minor children, as he reportedly did not want them to become entitled. However, that choice had terrible consequences for his estate. Since most of his estate was left to his long-time partner, it was subject to millions of dollars of estate tax that could have been avoided. 

The lesson

There are tax implications to how your estate is structured. Be sure to speak to a lawyer and accountant to minimize the tax owed by your estate after you have passed. 

Justice Warren Burger

Justice Burger is not a celebrity, but a great example of why you should save doing it yourself for home décor and not estate planning. This former Supreme Court Justice died in 1995 with an estate worth approximately $1.8 million. Given his legal expertise, you would assume that the will that he prepared would be immaculate. However, it failed to give his executors proper powers and left his estate paying unnecessary taxes.

The lesson

If a Supreme Court Justice would have benefited from speaking to an estate lawyer that understands the complex legal issues involved, then we all do. Only someone experienced in this complicated area of law can make sure that you have an estate plan that is practical, secures your wishes as much as possible and gives your remaining family true peace of mind. 

Avoid Estate Mistakes With Beeksma Law

At Beeksma Law, we are passionate about making sure that you avoid estate planning mistakes that will hurt your loved ones. We want you to have peace of mind, knowing that your wishes are properly and clearly documented. 

Whether you have a “Best Actor” Oscar or “Best Mom Ever” mug, everyone needs an estate plan. Book your consultation with our team today to get started on yours. 

Preventing Title Fraud In Real Estate Transactions

Disclaimer: This article on title fraud 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.

Recently, a couple in Etobicoke came home from an extended business trip to a nasty surprise. Their home had been sold while they were away.  Two individuals posed as the owners, hired a real estate agent and were able to sell the home. 

Police discovered a similar situation in Toronto; however, in that instance the sale did not actually close. 

Whether it is in the news or anecdotally, we are hearing increasing reports of title fraud. Additionally, it seems that these criminals are becoming more sophisticated. Experts say they have fake identification that is almost indistinguishable from the real deal. 

In this article, we will talk about ways that you can protect yourself and your property. 

two men shaking hands - one of them is crossing his fingers behind his back because he is committing title fraud.

What is title fraud? 

Title fraud occurs when someone illegally obtains your title deed. They then use it to try to sell or mortgage your property without your permission. Fraudsters do this through forged documents, identity theft, or by taking advantage of those who may not understand the implications.

Who is most at risk? 

Cases of title fraud are more common when:

the owner is elderly, disabled, or vulnerable;

the owner has no family members to help manage the property; or

the owners’ estate is not properly set up.

Other potential targets of title fraud are those who own multiple properties, such as real-estate investors and landlords.

Typically, fraudulent homeowners will target houses with “clean title”, meaning that there are no mortgages or other liens on the property. If a house has a mortgage on title, for example, the bank or lender is involved and the sale becomes more complicated. The higher risk for the criminal may motivate them to look elsewhere.

They will often target homes that are vacant or newly purchased, as these have less likelihood of raising suspicion.

How can you prevent title fraud from happening to you or your family?

There are a couple of ways to prevent title fraud. (In a separate article, we will discuss protecting your relatives who might be elderly or otherwise vulnerable.)

Protect Your Identity

The first step is to protect your identity. Make sure that you keep all important documents such as drivers licenses, birth certificates and passports in a secure place. Additionally, if possible, sign up for an identity monitoring service that will detect any changes to your credit or personal information.

There are a few resources that can be helpful in protecting your identity below:

Purchase Title Insurance

The best way to combat the negative impact of title fraud is to purchase title insurance.

Title insurance is a type of insurance policy that protects the owner’s right to their property. If a title fraud issue arises, the title insurance covers all costs associated with rectifying it, including legal fees and other expenses.

Lenders typically require title insurance when you apply for a mortgage. However, even if it is not required, we strongly recommend that you purchase it. The relatively small payment for title insurance is far less than what you would incur if your property were stolen.

Have a mortgage or line of credit registered on title

Given that properties with clean title are generally more likely to be targeted, consider registering a mortgage or a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) on your property. Even if it is for a small amount, it will make it more difficult for a criminal to sell or mortgage the home without your knowledge.

Expert Legal Advice With Beeksma Law

We know that your house is more than a house. It’s your home, and we understand how important it is to you to keep your home safe.

At Beeksma Law, we stay up to date on the market so that we can provide our clients with the best advice. Our real estate team can help ensure that you are protected from potential risks. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you protect your property rights.