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Estate Planning Archives

Unknown Unknowns: Pension Rights and Estate Planning

While it is less common these days for employment benefits to include a pension, many individuals still do have either a pension (not including the Canada Pension Plan, which is subject to its own rules and which is not the subject of this blog) or a locked-in retirement account (LIRA) which was created from former pension funds. While these funds, particularly LIRAs, tend to be thought of as if they are RRSPs or RRIFs, it is important to remember that the rights associated with them, including the right to designate a beneficiary, are not always the same.

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.

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.

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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