A well drafted will is not worth the (stack of) paper it is written on if it fails to achieve the client's objectives. Those objectives are often defeated where an estate plan is not properly designed, implemented, or maintained.
As parents, we worry about our children: a truism that becomes even more true, and often extends to siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, when a child has special needs. We worry about what will happen to the special-needs individual, how they will care for themself and be cared for, and how we should plan for their future and leave them funds for their support and care, or just for a rainy day, without jeopardizing their independence or sources of government support. And when we look for information, online or from professionals, sometimes we end up not only worried, but also confused. And this can lead to paralysis and lack of planning.
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.
There are many things that we think about and plan for when we move--furniture, movers, schools, utilities... I could go on and on. There are even more things that we plan for when we move to another jurisdiction-language, taxes, visas, driving laws... and so it goes. But one thing you might never think about if you move to another jurisdiction is the impact of the matrimonial regime of your new home on your estate plan. Matrimonial laws can have a major impact on your estate plan, and not knowing what those effects might be can make the difference between your estate plan working the way it was meant to and not.
A "protector" is a person who is given special rights and powers under a will or a trust instrument to participate in the administration of an estate or a trust. Protectors generally provide an oversight function--they ensure the trustees are administering the trust in accordance with the testator's or settlor's intentions and they also safeguard the interests of the beneficiaries.
Perhaps I should refrain from re-stating the obvious, but it bears repeating--we live in an increasingly global and mobile society, where people move from jurisdiction to jurisdiction with relative ease. And when we're not picking up and moving residences, we're travelling to foreign destinations and buying property, opening bank accounts or acquiring other assets there. Then there are inherited properties abroad, or property held before the move to Canada.
Sometimes the law leads in pushing societal change forward, but often it lags far behind, particularly in the face of scientific innovation and rapid technological change.
Estate planning documents (such as a will, power of attorney for property, power of attorney for personal care, Henson-type trust and/or inter vivos trust) are the legal framework of an estate plan--the "apparatus"--which can seem to be a tricky network of legal rules, directions, and often unavoidably, a lot of legalese to navigate. Estate plans are sometimes short on information or guidance regarding the "soft issues": the relationships, context, goals, aspirations, vision, preferences, history, etc. that inform the overall structure.
A failure to take into account taxes on death can often defeat an estate plan. It can result in a smaller estate being available for distribution and it can also result in some beneficiaries bearing a disproportionate amount of the estate's tax burden. While most estate plans take into account domestic taxes arising on death, such as income tax and probate tax, foreign taxes, however, are too often ignored even though a dollar of tax paid to a foreign government is no different than one paid to a domestic government.
In addition to purchasing a first home, the birth of a child is another momentous life event that often spurs people to prepare a will. Expecting parents and parents of young children are usually keen to put wills in place in order to ensure that if something happens to them, their children will be cared and provided for. While many parents are aware that this planning includes appointing guardians of their minor children in their wills, they may not fully understand these appointments or the considerations that should go into making them.