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O'Sullivan Estate Lawyers | Toronto Trust and Estate Law Blog

Death and Taxes: The Buck Does Not Stop Here

Everyone knows that death and taxes are two of life's certainties, but some of us may not appreciate that our tax liabilities don't disappear on death and that our legal representatives become responsible for sorting out our unfinished tax business.

Some tax liabilities are expected to arise on or after death, such as those from the deemed disposition of capital assets on death and from other income inclusions that must happen in the terminal year, as well as from any provincial estate administration tax. However, our ordinary lifetime income tax compliance that should be completed on an annual basis is not something that should be left for family members and others to sort out after we die, as the repercussions can be significant.

Safekeeping of Estate Planning Documents: Digitally Challenged?

As estate practitioners, we continually remind our clients to update their estate planning documents and ensure they reflect their current intentions. A further key consideration is how estate planning documents should be properly recorded, stored and safeguarded.

In order to embrace the digital era, the legal community has made significant strides in digitizing legal documents, particularly in the areas of corporate law (documents are often signed digitally including in major transactions) and document-management. We are frequently asked by our clients whether wills can be digitally signed and stored. Although several jurisdictions, including Nevada and Florida, have introduced or proposed legislation for digital wills (please see our blog on this topic), no legislation has been introduced in Canada. What are the procedures for properly recoding and safely storing original documents?

Simplicity vs. Oversimplicity in Estate Planning

Often people who are doing their estate planning have one overriding goal in mind: keep it simple. The so-called "KISS" principle is attractive, and may be appropriate for some. But for many, simplicity can be oversimplicity. Instead of being cost-efficient in the long term and allowing a streamlined estate administration process, oversimplicity can create more complications, increased taxes, disputes and, all too often, litigation than could have been avoided if their planning had been more comprehensive.

Embracing Change - A Postscript

The STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) Global Congress held in Vancouver in September, 2018, attracted delegates from over 37 countries and six continents. It was a truly global think tank in which we explored, probed, deconstructed and debated some of the most important changes that are, or will in future, shape and impact the world of family inheritance and succession planning.

As Chair of the Program Panel Committee, it was particularly exciting for me to see how the two-dimensional communication of countless emails and international conference calls to develop the Congress became a three-dimensional reality of speakers and delegates from around the world who convened for this biennial event to learn about strategies, new developments, ways of thinking and approaches in family succession.

Powers of Attorney: Jurisdictional Challenges

A power of attorney ("POA") is a legal document in which one person, sometimes termed the "grantor", appoints another person - the attorney - to make decisions and act on the grantor's behalf. In Canada, POAs are governed by provincial and territorial laws. Two types of POAs are used in Ontario for estate planning: Continuing Power of Attorney for Property and Power of Attorney for Personal Care.

In order for a POA to be valid, it must comply with the formal POA requirements of the applicable jurisdiction. These requirements are generally concerned with who may make a POA, who may be appointed as an attorney, who may or must witness the execution of the POA and when the POA will be in force. Although the formalities may appear similar across jurisdictions, each jurisdiction generally has its own unique requirements, with the result that extra-provincial/extra-territorial or foreign country POAs may not be recognized locally.

The Cautionary Tale of Mutual Wills

Estate planning deals with often complex family situations, including the needs of blended families with complicated personal relationships. The goal of estate planning is to ensure your intentions for your loved ones are carried out.

There are several ways to address blended family and second marriage situations so that the children of a prior marriage are provided for. Most common is the use of a trust. Many practitioners have reservations about the use of another technique, "mutual wills", which are further explained below, given their questionable legal basis.

Critical Dates in Estate Administration: What You Need to Know

When a loved one passes away, whether it is expected or not, their death begins not only the process of grieving by those left behind, but also the process of dealing with what the deceased family member has left behind. There is often uncertainty and apprehension felt by those in charge of the estate administration. One of the most frequent questions we are asked is "what deadlines do I need to know about?".

Missing an important due date can have serious consequences, including legal liability. Fortunately, in administering an estate there are only a few deadlines that executors (appointed under a deceased person's will to administer their estate) or administrators (appointed by a court to administer an estate where there is no will), sometimes termed in Ontario as "estate trustees", need to be concerned about.

Embracing Change

We all sense the increasing speed of change that permeates all aspects of our everyday lives. Whether it's technology, political or economic events, or even the weather with climate change, the constant is change itself.

And with constant change comes the need to adapt to it, or even better - embrace it. In observing the laws of natural selection, Charles Darwin observed that "it is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change". Resilience and adaptability have become the buzz words of our age. A more positive approach to change is not only accepting it, but embracing it and enjoying the challenges of change as a philosophy of life. As the Japanese intellectual Kakuzo Okakura stated, "The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings". 

Digital Assets: Modern Realities Versus Lagging Legalities

Our digital asset inventories - electronic tools, digital currencies, files, and various online accounts - continue to grow. Five years ago, the McAfee Digital Assets Survey estimated that Canadian consumers valued their digital assets at over $32,000 per person, which is not an insignificant matter from an estate administration perspective, and one which, as this post explains, requires urgent attention from Canadian lawmakers.

Digital assets are different from tangible property that traditionally comprises an estate. Aside from the practical hurdles of transferring digital assets, such as the ability to locate and access them, some digital assets, especially those stored on or associated with online accounts, can also be subject to legal hurdles.

2018 Update on the UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons

December 10, 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was a milestone in 1948 for protecting human rights. Surprisingly, older persons are not yet expressly identified as a protected group under international human rights laws. In acknowledgment of the Declaration, the UN International Day for Older Persons has coined the theme for 2018 to be "Celebrating Older Human Rights Champions". With the 70th anniversary on the horizon for the Declaration, it feels important to reflect on older person's rights and the long standing discussion around the proposed United Nations Convention on the Rights of Older Persons (the "Convention"). 

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