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.
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.
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?".
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.
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.