With the start of a new year and a new decade, we tend to focus more than usual on important personal goals and objectives. One goal to consider is creating a family contingency plan. Your plan can be short and simple, or lengthy and detailed. In brief, it entails creating a list of critical information of who, what and where. Who to call in an emergency, such as close relatives, key professionals including doctors, accountants, lawyers and other professional advisors. What you own, such as bank and investment accounts, retirement, pension and other plans, insurance, real estate, personal effects, including art, jewelry and other valuables and collectibles, and how assets are structured if there are any holding companies, trusts or other entities, and at which financial institutions property is held (including any safe deposit boxes), as well as any liabilities, such as mortgages, loans, lines of credit and credit cards.
The end of one year and the beginning of another is a good time to reflect, recharge, and take stock. Even if you don't celebrate the new year January 1st, it is also a good time to feel grateful for what you were able to complete and make resolutions about what you haven't completed. It may sound trite, but everyone should take the time to do this at least once a year.
In a previous blog, "The Movement to Transparency and the Erosion of Privacy" we wrote about the global move to greater transparency by government and taxing authorities which they claim is necessary to combat money laundering and tax evasion.As part of that agenda which the government asserts is necessary to ensure the effectiveness and integrity of the Canadian tax system, new income tax rules have been introduced which require trusts (with limited exceptions) to provide additional information. As well, certain trusts which may have had no reporting and disclosure obligations because they had no income will now be required to file a trust income tax and information return.
As colder weather approaches, Ontario snowbirds will start flocking to warmer climates. According to a 2018 study commissioned by The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, close to 500,000 Canadian snowbirds spend their winters in Florida. Arizona and California are also popular destinations.
For those of us who live and work in a common law world, it is hard to imagine that we are by far the minority. Most of the world is governed by a civil law regime, customary law or religious law. Continental Europe, Russia, China, Japan, South America, Mexico and some of Africa are governed by civil law. The common law tradition is peculiarly English in origin, and most of its former colonies follow it, including in the U.S. (except Louisiana), Canada (except Quebec), Australia, New Zealand and India.
People often wish to ensure confidentiality in doing their estate planning as an important goal. A trust is a common vehicle to do so, since court probate processes, which have been around for centuries, are public and once a will is probated it becomes a public document. The current government trend is towards greater disclosure of beneficial ownership, making achieving confidentiality in estate and trust matters much more difficult, if not impossible, in some cases.Obtaining a court grant of probate (or certificate of appointment of estate trustee with a will in Ontario), which is often required for an executor to be able to administer a person's assets after his or her death, involves the filing of the deceased person's last will with the court making it available to the public. In addition, the total value of a person's assets must be disclosed in the application form, as well as the addresses, and if minor beneficiaries, dates of birth, of all beneficiaries must be provided to the court. While a probate application is not exactly a newspaper article, it is available to anyone who wants to see it and who is willing to bother to take a look at the court file. Now in Ontario a fulsome list of all estate assets subject to probate is required to be filed after the court certificate is issued, although this is not a publicly-available document.
With increased mobility, it's becoming more common to have assets in several jurisdictions, in which case, it is important to create a comprehensive estate plan that considers all of your assets and not just the assets located where you live. To deal with assets in more than one jurisdiction, there are a number of advantages in having multijurisdictional or separate situs wills (see our advisory on multijurisdictional and separate situs will planning).
One of the benefits that a trust and estate lawyer like myself enjoys is that we deal with people of every background, age and personality type and often in very profound ways. In short, we encounter all the diversity that humanity can offer. We see many family situations which gives one perspective and a broad awareness, and we hold the confidence (and confidences) of many in our role as a trusted adviser. This includes dealing with the challenging mental health issues of our clients and their family members from a legal perspective in their estate planning, and offering solutions to often perplexing and thorny issues.
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.
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.