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.
One of the increasing challenges facing parents and other family members today is achieving success in their estate planning - passing on their wealth well. But how should we define "success". From a professional viewpoint, much of estate planning focuses on ensuring a tax and cost-efficient transition of wealth to future generations and primarily focuses on financial aspects. But in doing so, have we lost sight of the forest for the trees? What is the overarching purpose of passing on wealth? Is it just about the money?
One of the interesting changes in our modern age when it comes to succession on death is that for many people, most of what they pass to their family and others will not be through their will, but instead by a "will substitute" such as life insurance. Many persons have term policies with a death benefit far greater than the assets accumulated during their life.
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.
It is becoming more and more the "norm" in many areas of day-to-day life that in lieu of an original paper copy of a document being given to us during some form of transaction or interaction, the document is instead created and sent to us digitally. Consider for example car rental agreements, sales receipts, monthly phone bills, tickets to a concert or art exhibit, personal income tax returns, charitable donation receipts, etc. It's easy to get in the habit of receiving important documents in this manner, as well as relying on having them at our fingertips and readily available by quickly searching phones, tablets, PCs, external hard drives, cloud storage and email inbox folders, or even accessing these documents online and downloading them if and when needed.
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.