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How Old (or Not) Should Your Executor Be?

One issue which people planning their estates frequently struggle with is who to appoint as their executor. The choice for this important role deserves serious consideration. There are many factors to be taken into account in selecting the right person, one of which is his or her age.

Can You Disinherit Your Child?

The family landscape is changing with increases in blended families, matrimonial breakdown and cohabiting. This may mean shifting family dynamics and relationships, which will likely translate to more complex estate planning.A parent may not want to pass his or her property to a child for a number of reasons. There are circumstances where it may be reasonable to exclude a child from inheriting, but a lack of proper planning can lead to costly disputes and strains on family relationships.

Moving On Up: The Transition to Wealth

The psychology of wealth is emerging as a distinct area of academic study and research. With aging baby boomers, and the trillion dollar wealth transfer that is now beginning to take place, we need to know more about wealth, how it impacts families, and how to successfully transition wealth.The reality is that most of those who have wealth are new to it. It has been estimated that of wealth holders, 75%-85% are self-made and only 10% -15% are inheritors.[1]

Outside Marriage, Outside Your Estate? Boilerplate Clauses and Modern Families

One of the most important aspects of estate planning for families is ensuring that everyone who is considered to be part of the family is able to share in the family wealth after death. While each holder of family wealth has different views on how and when this should occur, no one ever wishes to accidentally eliminate an intended heir. Unfortunately, this can happen all too easily when standard provisions routinely included in wills and trusts are not fully considered in light of each person's unique family circumstances.Here is one example of how such an unintended disinheritance might arise. A person makes a will which provides for a cash amount for each grandchild. This person has a child who is a parent to his or her spouse's child from a previous marriage. This child never legally adopted his or her spouse's child, although this "step-grandchild" is considered part of the family.

Update on Medical Assistance in Dying

It is timely to consider the topic of medical assistance in dying. Since June 17, 2016, three years ago last week, Canadian law has recognized as a fundamental human right to be protected by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms the right to have assisted dying. On that date, Parliament amended the Criminal Code to legalize medical assistance in dying ("MAID").Canada joined a small but growing number of jurisdictions which allow either assisted suicide (where a person helps another to end their life but the patient takes their own life), such as prescribing life-ending medication, or voluntary euthanasia where a practitioner administers medication that causes a patient's death. Assisted dying is also allowed in Belgium, Colombia, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, several U.S. states and the State of Victoria, Australia, but only The Netherlands, Belgium, Columbia, Luxembourg and Canada and just last week, the State of Victoria have legalized voluntary euthanasia.

The True Role of the Trusted Advisor

Much has been written in recent years about the role of the "trusted advisor". A trusted advisor plays a key role in achieving client goals in their best interests and is worth their weight in gold. To do so, a trusted advisor needs to be able to provide clients with sound advice based on experience but also on the ethical dimensions of their decisions.

Canadian Tax Rates: How Do We Compare?

Now that the flurry of another tax season has come and gone, and we can put tax return preparation to the side until next year, its seems timely to consider in a dispassionate way how Canadian tax rates stack up against other countries, in particular the U.S.. Do we pay too much tax compared to other countries? A recent report by The Fraser Institute released on March 14, 2019 sets out the facts based on 2017 rates. [1]

Using Letters of Wishes to Guide your Guardians

In Ontario, a standard guardianship clause in a will where there are minor children typically appoints one or more guardians, may include alternate ones, and will usually refer to the need to obtain a permanent appointment by the court pursuant to the Children's Law Reform Act[1] (please refer to my previous blog in this regard). As important as the appointment of guardians may be, it provides no guidance to the appointed guardians for the minor children's care and upbringing. In order to address this, parents should consider a "letter of wishes" to the guardians of their children.

Forced Heirship vs Mandatory Succession Rights - It's All in Your Perspective

In Canada, succession rights are often discussed in the framework of testamentary freedom - see for example our previous blog regarding testamentary freedom which discusses disinheriting a beneficiary such as a child who might expect to inherit. But in many parts of the world, a person not only cannot disinherit certain family members, it would not be accepted by society at large in such places that a person should be able to do so.

At Which Age Should Children Inherit?

Life spans are increasing. Consider that in Canada over the last decade alone, life expectancy for those who reach 65 has climbed by two years, and men on average who are 65 today can expect to live to 84 and women to 87, while half of Canadians age 20 today will live to age 90 and 10% to age 100. Perhaps it is nature's balancing act that there is a longer aging period but at the same time there also seems to be a longer maturation period for our children which impacts our estate planning. One of the perplexing questions faced by parents in their estate planning is coming to grips with the question of deciding appropriate ages for their children to inherit. From my own perspective as an estate planning lawyer for over three decades, I have seen a significant shift in that time span to later ages.

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