It's been almost three years since our last blog on the European Succession Regulation. It seems timely to check the pulse and see what impact it is having on estate planning and administration.As a refresher, the Regulation came into effect on August 17, 2015 and applies to all European Union member states with the exception of the U.K., Ireland, and Denmark, each of which decided to opt out.
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 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.
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.
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.
In March of this year, I wrote about the complications which can arise in administering an estate of an individual who owns a vacation home in a U.S. state such as Florida or Arizona. In that blog, I discussed issues in estate administration which arise from the multi-jurisdictional location of assets and the requirements to obtain probate in different places. Another type of complication which can occur arises from the probate rules in other jurisdictions and the ways they differ from, and are not compatible with, the probate rules in Ontario.
On April 26, 2017, with great fan-fare, the White House announced bold proposals for tax reform, the primary objective of which is to stimulate economic growth. These reforms could be a real game-changer if they succeed in creating new jobs, fuelling economic expansion, and making the U.S. more competitive - and dare I say it ...making America great again.
With increasing globalization of people and their assets, a growing and often hidden threat is multiple taxation on death. Different countries tax in different ways on death, and when those laws collide, the same assets can be exposed to double and even triple tax or more.
While this winter in Toronto has been blessedly mild, colder weather makes many of us wonder why we live in a cold climate, or at least envy those who have vacation homes in warmer climates. While a vacation home in Florida or Arizona or other southern destinations may be a wonderful thing, planning is usually necessary to prevent it from becoming a burden after death for your family and executors. As an example, directly owning a vacation home in Florida or Arizona may give rise to the onerous process to probate a will in those jurisdictions. This is in addition to any U.S. estate tax exposure your estate may face due to direct ownership of U.S. real estate.
As of today, according to the Gregorian calendar, we are just over one month away from ringing in the New Year. If you are already contemplating your New Year's resolution, we thought we would help out in this blog post by providing you with a shortlist of "thinking points" for your estate planning to help you start 2017 with your best foot forward. What follows are five recommendations gathered from our past year's blog posts to assist in getting your estate plan into even better shape.