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

Someone To Watch Over You

Not to beat a dead horse, but it bears repeating: our population is aging. With an increase in the number of people in our society over 65 comes a variety of social and economic challenges, some of which you are no doubt already familiar with. One issue which many people may not have considered, but which is almost certain to affect them sooner or later, is the question of who will make their medical and other personal care decisions when they are not able to do so.

The Rule Against Perpetuities: A Dying Relic 

The Rule Against Perpetuities (the "Rule") is an old and complex legal rule that aims to prevent the delay of vesting of many types of transferred property interests beyond the "Perpetuities Period" and is the bane of many lawyers who draft wills and trusts.

A property interest vests when it is absolute and cannot be defeated. There are many ways to transfer property interests, including under a will or through a trust.

Misuse and Abuse of Powers of Attorney - Why Law Reform is Necessary

Having a power of attorney for property is a document we continually recommend to clients who are in the process of updating their estate plans. The purpose of a power of attorney for property is to give a named individual (the "attorney") the authority to act on behalf of the person executing the document (the "grantor") and make decisions with respect to their financial affairs. Under Ontario law, a continuing power of attorney can be used after the donor is incapable of managing their financial affairs and can be revoked at any time as long as the grantor is mentally capable.

A grantor typically appoints family members or those they believe are best suited to deal with their finances. Having a power of attorney in place prevents family members from having to make a guardianship application to the court for the incapable person. Not only is a power of attorney more cost-efficient, it allows the grantor to choose who they wish to appoint and avoid an intrusive court process.

Special Needs, Special Trusts

When it comes to ensuring a loved one with a disability is taken care of, few things are more important than a well-considered plan. And yet, for many, it can often seem as if few things are more difficult than planning for a disabled family member. Often the difficulty arises from a confusion regarding the options that are available and a general lack of available information regarding these options. Our Advisory Estate Planning to Benefit Family Members with Special Needs provides an overview of many available options to address a variety of concerns faced by individuals planning for a disabled loved one.

Going Paperless: Electronic Wills

The increasing pace of technological change is our reality, and when it comes to estate planning, there is no exception.

The traditional formalities for wills and powers of attorney are stricter than for most legal documents: for example in Ontario a will has to be in writing and signed at the end by the will maker in the presence of two witnesses, who each in turn sign the will in the presence of the will maker and each other. The same process must be followed for an Ontario power of attorney for property and for personal care. The objective is to prevent fraud and help ensure the document reflects the testator's free will - after all he or she will not be around if an issue later arises with regard to the validity of the document. Holograph wills - those which are all in the will maker's handwriting and signed by the will maker at the end are also permitted in Ontario, as well as in many other jurisdictions.

Estate Plan "Health Check-Up" - Keeping up to Date with Recent Legal and Tax Changes

In both our August 2015 and March 2016 blog posts, we discussed the importance of frequently reviewing your estate planning documents, as personal and financial circumstances can constantly change. Failing to make necessary revisions to your estate planning documents may result in unintended consequences that do not accurately reflect your wishes, intentions and goals.

Change is the Only Constant: A Perspective on Changes to Canadian Income Tax Rules for Private Corporations

On July 18, 2017, the Federal Government announced changes to close "loopholes" in the taxation of private corporation income. One of the stated goals is to provide for "fairness" in the taxation of income so that business income earned through a private corporation is not "unfairly" subject to lesser rates of tax than other income. The purpose of this blog is not to discuss whether this should be a goal of our tax system. Change is a constant in all things, including tax policy, and a change in tax policy appears to be here, whether popular or not.

Impact of U.S. Tax Reform on Estate Planning for Canadians with U.S. Connections

U.S. tax reform measures were signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017, culminating a whirlwind legislative process at the end of 2017 which resulted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the "Tax Act"), the most significant changes to U.S. tax law in over three decades. These changes, in particular those relating to personal taxation, will impact many individuals and families with U.S. connections.

The Tax Act reduces U.S. personal income tax rates. The top bracket is now 37%, in contrast to the prior 39.6% and applies to individuals with income of $500,001 or more. In comparison, the top marginal tax rate in 2018 for an Ontario taxpayer is 53.53% and applies to individuals with income of $220,000 or more. U.S and Canadian tax rates are on opposite trajectories - ours increasing and the U.S.'s decreasing. The question of the day: is the Canadian policy approach sustainable given our reliance on and interconnectivity with the U.S.?

Domestic Contracts to Protect Family Wealth: Unassailable or Not?

When family wealth is at stake, parents may wish to encourage their children to enter into a domestic contract with their partners. The purpose may include to protect significant gifts and inheritances, a home owned at date of marriage, or a family business. With divorce rates at an all time high and the largest anticipated wealth transfer in Canada's history of approximately $750 billion to millennials over the next several decades, these issues are a growing concern for many families.

In Ontario, domestic contracts, which include cohabitation and prenuptial agreements, are useful to protect parties upon a marital breakdown or death because they allow couples to agree on rights and obligations regarding property division and support. Although they are generally difficult to challenge because courts respect private agreements, domestic contracts can be invalid if they fail to follow the requirements under relevant legislation.

U.S. Tax Reform Moves Forward at Breakneck Speed

No doubt many U.S. legislators were chewing on tax reform over the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend, as well as enjoying their turkey, as unprecedented momentum is moving U.S reforms ahead at breakneck speed demonstrating Congress's desire to complete tax reform before year end.

The proposed changes will be the most significant to the U.S. tax system in over three decades, and will impact many individuals and families with U.S. connections. Several major areas are impacted, including U.S. estate and gift tax.

We are a top-ranked and peer recognized firm, including Margaret O’Sullivan by Chambers Canada Guide 2017 and Chambers Canada High Net Worth 2017 as one of the top six private client lawyers in Canada:

  • Top Ranked Canada Chambers 2017 Margaret O'Sullivan
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  • The Law Reviews | Expert Panel 2015
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  • Recognised in WHO'S WHO LEGAL | WWL
  • Recognised in WHO'S WHO LEGAL | WWL | Canada 2017
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