Our lawyers help you navigate the often-complex business of managing your assets and estate throughout your life and can help you plan for your family’s future.
It is important and reassuring to have an estate plan, as well as a plan that will allow you to reach your long-term financial goals. From decades of client work, we know that proper estate planning gives you, your family and your friends, peace of mind that your affairs are appropriately considered. That planning includes a carefully drafted will that sets out who will manage your estate and the division of your estate among your beneficiaries. The person appointed to manage the estate is known as your Estate Trustee or executor.
To start, our lawyers thoroughly review your family and financial situation to help craft an estate plan and a will that best serve you. The advice may range from simple (such as ownership of assets) to complex (such as the use of multiple wills or trusts designed to protect minors or special needs beneficiaries, allow asset protection or create tax benefits). We tailor our advice to your particular requirements.
Everyone needs a will
You may find it difficult to think about a day you will no longer be here. However, it is important to have foresight and make a will, which speaks for you after your death. Everyone should have a will – from those with the simplest, most straightforward estates to those with complex business holdings. Your will appoints who will manage the estate, paying your debts and distributing your assets to the beneficiaries you’ve named in your will. If you die without a will, you will have died “intestate”, which means provincial laws, rather than you, will decide how your property is distributed. Without a will you can’t chose an executor and in addition, it creates bonding and surety requirements for the family member who applies to court to be named as the administrator of your will. If you own property in more than one province, then you will have to follow laws of intestacy in each jurisdiction. Dying intestate makes settling your estate more complicated for your loved ones and can cause delay and additional costs.
Second Family Situations (blended family)
It’s common today for people to have second families with a new spouse or common-law partner, and often including children from a previous marriage or relationship. Because spouses have special, legislated rights that arise on death, people with second families can experience additional conflict when estates are divided. Our lawyers know how to identify unique issues that can help minimize or eliminate the potential disagreements or hurt feelings from situations like this.
Incapacity Planning: Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives
There may come a time when you need someone to help you look after your affairs. We’ll review with you the issues surrounding the preparation and signing of powers of attorney in Ontario or elsewhere in Canada. Powers of attorney are powerful documents that allow you to appoint the people you trust to assist you if the need arises. Without valid powers of attorney, your family may be required to make a court application in order to handle your affairs for you.
We can also help you develop a health care directive to address medical decisions that may need to be made for you if you lose capacity to make such decisions and/or become unable to communicate your wishes. In a health care directive, you give direction about what kinds of medical treatment you want or do not want. Health care directives can be simple or complex depending on your situation and preferences. We’ll help you make the informed and well-advised choices necessary for the preparation and signing of this significant document. You can also appoint an attorney for personal care, the person who will make medical decisions for you if you cannot make those decisions for yourself.
When preparing your estate plan, an efficient tax plan will help reduce taxes for you and your family. The plan can include a tax reduction during your lifetime and after your death. Our tax and estate planning lawyers have experience using a variety of techniques, including the use of trusts (including alter ego trusts), estate freezes, income splitting and maximizing access to capital gains exemptions.
When someone loses the ability to make their own financial and personal decisions but has not signed a power of attorney, we will help families obtain a guardianship order from the Court. A guardianship order provides the necessary authority to manage the affairs of the incompetent person and can include authority to handle financial matters, personal care or both. We also assist families with the ongoing administration and regular reporting to the Court that will be required after an order of guardianship is granted.
For Estate Trustees, the administration of an estate can be a complicated and time-consuming process. Our Wills and Estate lawyers can help you navigate the process and settle the estate efficiently. Aspects of the administration of the estate include obtaining a Certificate of appointment of Estate Trustee (with or without a Will), completing and filing the Estate Information Return, securing consents of beneficiaries, sales of assets, distribution of assets, estate litigation, and much more.