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Filtering Out the Noise in Your Estate Planning

You've heard it before: there's a lot of information out there these days. Thousands of hours of Youtube content are uploaded every day. Wikipedia entries are updated every minute. Blogs are written, websites created and refreshed. You can find information, accurate or not, on just about any subject, no matter how obscure, and instructions on how to do just about anything, from baking cookies to building a bomb. This overload of information extends to many important aspects of your life, and estate planning is not excluded. Google the words "estate planning Ontario" and you'll get thousands of results. Everyone has advice to give if you ask (or even if you don't). So how do you decide what to follow and what to ignore?

Considerations in Appointing Guardians of Minor Children Under Wills

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.

One Key Ingredient for a Successful Estate Plan: Proper Asset Alignment

In our August 2015 post entitled "Keeping Your Estate Plan Healthy with Periodic Check-Ups" we raised the potentially problematic reality that your estate plan may only be truly up-to-date the day you sign your estate planning documents. We put estate plans in place to ensure that our wishes, intentions and goals are achieved in the event of incapacity or death. For most of us though, our day-to-day lives are perpetually changing--whether it be our relationships, residency, health, assets or values.

The Changing Face of Global Tax Transparency

High net worth individuals have been criticized (especially during election years) for not paying their fair share of taxes. These individuals often take advantage of legitimate tax planning strategies to lower their taxes. A portion, though, utilize evasive strategies that rely on a general lack of tax transparency between countries and laws that promote secrecy.

Using Trusts: The Future is Bright

On January 1st, several new income tax rules for trusts and estates came into effect. An overview of these significant changes are discussed in our Special Advisory. While we understand that there is an ongoing dialogue between the Federal Ministry of Finance and several professional organizations regarding possible changes to two of these new rules, most, if not all, of the changes are here to stay. These changes do not eliminate the many and diverse benefits of trust planning, nor should trusts, including in Wills or established during one's lifetime, be considered as unattractive options. 

Family Meetings: An Underutilized Tool

In our August 18, 2015 post we raised the idea of regular check-ups for your estate plan in order to keep it current. Periodic reviews help to keep you refreshed about the details of your estate plan so that it can be maintained and changed when necessary--ensuring it will carry out your objectives when it comes into effect.

Testamentary Freedom: The Right to Disinherit a Beneficiary

Individuals in Ontario are free to pass their property on death as they wish, subject to certain legal limitations. This ability is often referred to as testamentary freedom and is a hallmark of English common law. Over the years, testamentary freedom has lost ground to other public policy objectives, such as ensuring dependants (which possibly includes persons who are not dependant on the will maker, but may have certain "moral claims" to the will maker's estate) are adequately provided for on death and, based on Spence v. BMO Trust Company which is currently under appeal, ensuring beneficiaries are not disinherited for morally offensive reasons. In Spence, the court invalidated a will where the will maker had excluded his daughter because she had a child with a man of a different race.

Confidentiality Matters: Thoughts on Death and Privacy

Privacy and the protection of personal data are a major concern in modern society. Complicated privacy legislation exists in many jurisdictions with the objective of protecting personal information by imposing multiple safeguards, some of which can be frustrating to deal with. With the increasing stores of digital information, we also frequently see reports of security breaches of government and major corporations' databases, not to mention instances of identity fraud, theft and other cyber-attacks.

New EU Rules for Cross-Border Succession Now Apply from August 17, 2015

When a client dies leaving assets in more than one country, conflict of laws rules (also known as private international law or PIL rules) step in to help determine which country's law should govern succession of the estate. As outlined in our earlier blog post of July 16, 2013, to achieve more clarity and certainty, the European Union passed a law known as the Succession Regulation in July 2012. It is now fully operational in all EU member states as of August 17, 2015 (except in Denmark, the U.K. and Ireland, which decided to opt out).

Keeping Your Estate Plan Healthy with Periodic Check-Ups

Your estate plan may only be truly up-to-date the day you sign your estate planning documents. This statement no doubt may dismay you and perhaps be unwelcome, in particular given the effort, time and expense that goes into preparing wills, trusts and powers of attorney. The reality is that our lives are in a constant state of flux.

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