Hagel Lawfirm
Menu Contact

Contact Today For Experienced Representation

Local 647-931-4244
Toll Free 1-800-615-6495

Mississauga Wills & Estates Law Blog

What older Canadians need to know about estate planning

The only constant in life is change, and as people continue to age, changes happen in life that should be reflected in different areas. Estate planning should evolve with those life changes. As finances and other things change as Ontario residents get older, their estate plans may need updating too.

The ways in which people manage their finances as they grow older tend to change as well. Two ways of managing money are with a power of attorney (POA) and joint bank accounts. Regarding a POA, those who sign any document making someone a POA over their affairs have to be mentally capable for it to be considered valid. A joint account gives two or more people the right to access any monies within that account.

Estate planning tricky when holding assets outside Canada

Working on an estate plan can get pretty complex depending upon the assets of an individual. Estate planning can get even more complicated when some of those assets are located outside Canada. More people are holding assets outside their home jurisdictions. 

Some Canadians have jobs that have taken them to more than one country. As a result, some have purchased real estate in those countries. Snowbirds, for instance, may have bought a home or land in Florida or the Carolinas. Different areas have different tax structures, so if they clash, problems can arise.

When grandma and grandpa become guardian-parents of the grandkids

Some grandparents are finding themselves becoming surrogate parents to their grandchildren. When a grandparent becomes the guardian of grandchildren in Canada, the lives of all involved are forever changed. There a many reasons why some grandparents are known as "skip generation" grandparents, but the main reason is that their own kids aren't able or available to care for their own children.

In fact, the 2016 census in Canada showed that three out of 10 kids were living in a single-parent family or a step family. Some of these children are living with their grandparents. It may be that their parents are deceased, may not be capable of parenting or may be incarcerated, so some older folks who were empty nesters once again have full houses. 

Estate planning: Axing the inheritance of a child's ex

After a lifetime of working hard, raising children and socking any extra money away, most people of retirement age just want to relax and spend some of their hard-earned funds on family members. But in the throes of estate planning in Canada, few people give pause to what would happen to any money shared with an adult child if that child's marriage or live-in love relationship goes on the skids. It's an important question to ask.

The question is especially important for those who have amassed a sizable amount of money over the years. So, when planning their estates, these people need to question how to go about safeguarding the money from getting into the hands of their child's ex-spouse or stepchildren. Giving large amounts of money to children who are married or living with a partner should be done to protect the money should an ex-partner lay claim to it. 

Estate planning in the digital age

Some people have amassed a number of assets in the technological realm. When it comes to estate planning, citizens of Canada should be mindful to include those assets in their wills. In this digital age, some people's assets go beyond investment portfolio shares, valuable collections like art, or a sports car.  

Things like website domain names, online branding of a business or even funds raised through crowdfunding websites like GoFundMe or Kickstarter are all examples of potential digital assets, as are AirMiles points. By not documenting them in a will, it could mean a nightmare for an executor who will have to sort through everything. Passwords and logins should also be written down and kept in a safe place. 

Estate administration: what to do when someone dies

When a loved one dies, usually the last thing on family members' minds is dealing with the legalities of the death, yet these matters should receive prudent attention. Ontario residents involved with a deceased person's estate administration should familiarize themselves with what to do in the event of a loved one's demise. Apart from doing the obvious -- like arranging the funeral and seeing that all documents are secured, like a death registration, death certificate, burial certificate, etc. -- the executor(s) of the estate should look into the situation of a will.

If it's uncertain that the deceased had a will, executors or family members can find out by contacting the estates division of the local Ontario court in the community where the deceased resided. If a will exists, it may or may not have to be proved legal in probate court. If the will is determined to be legal and binding, the executor, also known as a trustee, is free to carry out the deceased person's wishes.

Minimizing probate fees for Ontario wills

Most estates end up going through the probate process. Ontario residents' wills need to have a legal stamp of approval in the courts. This probate process also formally appoints the estate's executor.

Most provinces, including Ontario, charge a fee to probate wills. However, there are some ways to minimize those fees. If an estate includes an RRSP or an RRIF, probate fees will be waived if beneficiaries have been designated for them. The same goes for death benefits on life insurance policies. When residents name beneficiaries other than their estates, assets are outside the jurisdiction of the estate and will go directly to the beneficiaries named.

Ontario snowbirds: Wills and owning Florida property

Many of the over 55 crowd still head to warmer climates to escape the scathing Canadian winters. Most older people living in Ontario have wills, and many of those who make the trek to Florida in the cold months also own property there. So, do they need to have a separate will for that property?

The succinct answer is "no." There is no need to have a separate will for property owned in Florida. Any will a person has created in Ontario (or wherever he or she ordinarily lives) will cover that property as well, unless a specific provision specifies otherwise. A separate will could be prepared for the Florida property, but it's unnecessary since all wills use the term "all my property."

Naming all children as executors in estate planning in Ontario

Children usually have the best interests of their parents at heart. But when it comes to estate planning in Ontario, having all children as executors of their parent's will may not be the best decision. Having more than two or three executors of a will could be a recipe for disaster since all the estate trustees would have to be involved in all the decisions regarding the estate.

Of course, parents don't want to be seen as playing favourites when choosing an executor. But, naming more than one child so as not to hurt the feelings of others might become problematic. Parents need to think carefully and wisely before making a final decision.

The need for estate planning for young parents

Years ago, most Ontario parents would have appointed godparents who would take care of their children, if anything should happen to the parents that would orphan the kids. However, times have changed, and young couples are generally either less religious or not as traditional.

Many young parents may overlook the importance of estate planning and the appointment of guardians for their children. Life is unpredictable, and young children may unexpectedly be left without care if their parents perish in an accident.

For this reason, establishing estate plans is essential for the young parents.

Plans need not be complex but should at least include provisions for their children. As the years pass, the parents can modify the plans to fit altered circumstances and to accommodate the unique needs of each child.  The most important and challenging task would be to choose appropriate guardians.