now browsing by month
Disclaimer: This article is intended for the purpose of providing an example of the dangers of dying without a will. 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. It does not purport to be exhaustive.
Creating an estate plan is on many of our to-do lists, but we procrastinate drafting it. There are many reasons. We may think we do not have a big enough estate to necessitate a will. We might believe that we are too young to have to worry about that yet.
The reality is that everyone – regardless of the size of your estate, your age, or any other factor – should be creating an estate plan.
In this real-life scenario, we examine a case involving someone who died intestate – meaning dying without a will – and the issues that arose because of that. (To learn more about how the laws of intestacy work in Ontario, read our blog article here.)
Case Study: Spouse Died Without a Will
Our client wanted to be appointed executor to manage her late husband’s estate. Simultaneously, she was also recognized as the natural guardian of their minor children.
While seemingly straightforward, her journey to secure these roles was more complex than expected.
The challenge arose when the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, representing the best interests of minors in such cases, identified a potential conflict of interest in her dual roles as executor and guardian of the children. Concerned about the potential for conflicting priorities, the Office of the Children’s Lawyer insisted on the submission of a comprehensive management plan that would address this issue.
Our client turned to our firm, known for its expertise in estate law. We connected her with financial planners who could help her create a well-structured management plan that alleviated concerns and maintained transparency in her roles.
The importance of other professionals in estate law
The collaboration between Beeksma Law and the financial planners was instrumental. Together, they developed a management plan that not only addressed the potential conflict of interest but also ensured the financial well-being and security of our client’s minor children. The plan detailed how she would manage her responsibilities as executor, taking into account her children’s interests and needs.
By leveraging the resources and expertise of Beeksma Law and our network of professionals, our client successfully navigated this situation. The courts appointed her as the executor. Furthermore, the Office of the Children’s Lawyer accepted the management plan, ensuring her children’s best interests were at the forefront of all decisions. This case highlights the importance of comprehensive estate planning, especially in situations involving minors. It also shows the value of having trusted legal advisors like Beeksma Law to provide holistic solutions to complex challenges.
Preventing Unnecessary Complexity: The Role of Estate Planning in Ontario
The aforementioned case underscores the critical importance of having a well-drafted will in place. While the collaborative efforts between our client, Beeksma Law, and financial planners ultimately led to a successful resolution, it still created undue anxiety for our client.
You can avoid unnecessary complications that arise from dying without a will by taking proactive steps in estate planning.
Beeksma Law: Your trusted partner in estate issues planning
Beeksma Law is your trusted partner in estate matters. Whether it’s crafting a well-drafted estate plan or helping you navigate any issues that arise during your loved one’s estate administration, we can guide you through the entire process. Contact our team today to learn more.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for the purpose of providing an estate planning checklist. 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. It does not purport to be exhaustive.
Estate planning is a crucial process. It allows you to make important decisions about the future of your assets, your loved ones, and even your own well-being.
Whether you have a complex or simple estate, putting an estate plan in place is a gift to your loved ones. Planning ahead for the future, seeking professional advice and creating estate planning documents has many benefits. It will make your wishes clear, can help you lower probate fees and minimize your estate trustee’s liability.
In this blog, we will provide an estate planning checklist with many areas to consider. Let’s delve into some of the essential decisions you must make during your estate planning process.
The importance of a proper estate plan
A well-thought-out estate plan is incredibly important. Not only does it safeguard your assets, but it also ensures that your loved ones are taken care of, and your final wishes are honored.
It will help your estate trustee make decisions and move more quickly through the probate process. Without a comprehensive estate plan, the distribution of your assets can become a contentious and complex process, potentially leading to disputes among family members.
However, it’s not just about your last will and testament. You need important documents, such as your powers of attorney, to allow someone to make critical decisions about who will manage your financial and healthcare affairs if you become incapacitated.
Who will be your executor or estate trustee?
The executor of your estate plays a pivotal role in ensuring your wishes are carried out according to your will. Typically, spouses are named as the primary executors, but it’s important to consider alternates, such as close friends or family members, in case your spouse cannot fulfill this role. You can even select two or more individuals to act as co-executors but remember that they must work jointly to manage your estate efficiently.
Your executor administers your estate and carries out many responsibilities. Learn more about choosing the right person for your estate administration here.
What assets do you currently own (including life insurance policies, digital assets, etc.)?
You will want to make an up-to-date list of your significant assets, including any life insurance policies, real property and other items. With regards to property or bank accounts, are there any of them owned jointly with your spouse?
Do you own any foreign assets? If so, note the location if outside your province. Specify the country in which these assets are located. This information is crucial for the smooth administration of your estate, as different countries have varying laws and regulations regarding foreign assets.
Who did you choose as the beneficiary when you completed the beneficiary designation for your life insurance? It’s important to ensure that your selection aligns with your estate documents.
Who are your beneficiaries?
Making a list of beneficiaries is a fundamental aspect of estate planning. Typically, spouses designate each other as primary beneficiaries, followed by their children in equal shares. Additionally, you should plan for contingencies, such as if one of your children predeceases you, ensuring their share goes to their children (your grandchildren).
Who will be your ultimate distribution beneficiaries?
Consider who should inherit your assets if none of your named beneficiaries are alive at your death and they leave no children behind. Common choices for ultimate distribution beneficiaries include siblings, parents, cousins, close friends, or charities. Your estate planning should reflect your preferences for these scenarios.
Would you like to create any beneficiary trusts?
If your beneficiaries include minors, you have the option of setting up a trust to manage their inheritance. You can choose between a “standard” trust, where the minor receives their full inheritance at a specified age (e.g., 18, 21, 25), or a graduated trust, which disburses the inheritance in stages. Clearly define the ages, amounts, and number of disbursements preferred to meet your objectives.
Would you like to create any other trusts?
Trusts can serve various purposes, from minimizing estate taxes to providing for specific needs of your beneficiaries or even supporting charitable causes. Your decision to establish additional trusts should be guided by your financial goals and family dynamics.
Who will be the guardians of any minor children?
If you have minor children, it’s crucial to appoint guardians who will take care of them if you and your spouse are unable to do so. Typically, spouses name each other as primary guardians, followed by close family members or friends as alternates. You can also designate a second alternate to ensure the well-being of your children.
With regards to your guardians, it is advisable to make sure they know that you have chosen them for this serious responsibility.
Are there any specific gifts or cash legacies you would like to bequeath?
If you have particular items or cash amounts you wish to leave to specific individuals or charities, be sure to document these in your estate plan. These specific gifts ensure that your cherished possessions and causes you care about are remembered and honored.
It may be wise to include specific gifts as a schedule to your will. For example, suppose you want a specific piece of jewelry to go to a certain grandchild. However, you then lose that piece of jewelry before you pass away. A separate schedule makes it easier to update specific gifts without having to amend the entire will.
Who will be your power of attorney for property?
Your Attorney for Property will manage your financial affairs in the event of incapacity. Typically, spouses name each other as primary appointees, followed by alternates.
When it comes to choosing co-attorneys, you have the option to decide whether they should act jointly or jointly and separately.
Jointly: If you choose to have your co-attorneys act jointly, they must make decisions together and reach a consensus. This approach ensures that all major financial decisions require the agreement of both co-attorneys, which can provide an added layer of security and oversight.
Jointly and separately: If you opt for joint and separate authority, your co-attorneys can make decisions together, but they can also act independently when necessary. This approach balances joint decision-making and the flexibility for each co-attorney to manage specific financial aspects without needing the other’s approval for every transaction.
You also need to specify when their power of attorney will come into effect. You can decide whether it should take effect immediately upon signing or only upon your incapacity.
If you grant them immediate authority, they can begin managing your financial affairs as soon as the document is executed. This means avoiding any delay involved with determining that you are incapable of managing your affairs. However, it also means that they can make decisions without your direct involvement, which may not be suitable for everyone.
Who will be your power of attorney for personal care?
Your Attorney for Personal Care is responsible for making medical and healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so. Typically, spouses choose each other as primary appointees, followed by alternates. Again, if you appoint co-attorneys, decide whether they should work jointly or jointly and separately.
In addition to these decisions, there are other factors to consider.
You should clearly state your organ donor status within this document to ensure your preferences regarding organ donation are respected.
Furthermore, you may want to consider whether your appointee should receive compensation for their role, as serving as an Attorney for Personal Care can be a demanding responsibility.
Lastly, suppose you hold specific religious or cultural beliefs that are important to you with respect to medical treatment and end-of-life care. In that case, it is essential to include them in your document. This will help guarantee that your healthcare choices align with your personal values, providing assurance and preserving the integrity of your healthcare decisions.
What are your burial wishes?
Finally, consider your burial wishes. This may include decisions about cremation, burial, or even specific details such as the choice of cemetery. If you have pre-planned your funeral, provide these details to ensure your wishes are carried out.
Regularly update your estate plan.
Life is constantly evolving, and so should your estate plan. Major life events such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children or grandchildren, changes in financial situations, and even changes in tax laws can all have a significant impact on your estate planning needs. By revisiting and updating your estate plan periodically, you can make necessary adjustments, address any new concerns, and guarantee that your loved ones are well-protected and that your assets are distributed as you intend.
Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney, as well as receiving accounting or similar professional advice can help you navigate these changes and ensure that your estate plan remains a reflection of your current wishes and goals.
Get started on your estate plan today!
Our estate planning checklist is just the beginning of creating your estate plan . When it comes to the complex legal aspects of planning your estate, Beeksma Law is your trusted and experienced partner. We primarily focus on estate law and with our estate litigation experience, we have the unique ability to craft legal documents that not only reflect your intentions but also minimize potential liabilities.
By reaching out to Beeksma Law, you can be confident that we will handle your estate planning needs with professionalism and expertise, protecting your assets and legacy for future generations.