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.

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