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Mississauga Wills & Estates Law Blog

Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee

An estate trustee might not be able to start administering the estate right away. A death certificate might have to be provided together with a certificate of appointment of estate trustee (with or without a will), previously known as probate certificate.

However, some surviving family members may start accessing parts of the estate assets intended for another beneficiary. This can lead to disputes. 

End-of-life care in estate planning

When it comes to end-of-life decisions, proper planning is crucial. In Ontario, estate planning documents may include a health care directive that provides the Substitute Decision Maker (SDM) with guidance about the patient's wishes regarding end-of-life medical treatment. Such guidance would be extremely helpful for the appointed SDM when a serious decision has to be made under very stressful circumstances.

It is invaluable to the family and friends when the patients, takes the time to write down their end-of-life wishes regarding health care before becoming incapacitated. The family, the appointed SDM (aka attorney for personal care) and the medical personnel will have direction as to what the patient would like to have happen when it comes to making important decisions to administer, continue or discontinue medical treatment.

If someone is on life support, making the decision discontinue is often fraught with anxiety. Knowing what the person would have wanted may not make the situation less painful, but it may make it less stressful.

The Supreme Court of Canada has stated that a doctor cannot take someone off life support if family members object. What about if some family members agree to discontinue the treatment but some do not? Trying to figure out what should be done can add more tension to an already difficult situation.

"Medical" powner of attorney and estate planning in Ontario

When someone is given a "medical" powner of attorney (Powner of Attorney for Personal Care), the individual appointed as the attorney can make medical decisions on behalf of the person who granted that authority. The attorney for personal care can make decisions about such matters as the person's health care, living situation, hygiene, nutrition, clothing and safety.

Powner of Attorney for Personal Care is usually executed during an estate planning process.  

When naming an Attorney for Personal Care, one must ensure that the directions given to the attorney are clear and sufficiently detailed to provide proper guidelines. Many people provide their Attorneys for Personal Care with detailed descriptions of their wishes but many people don't. Matters such as the level of medical intervention and administration of life support measures must be addressed. Otherwise, the person making these crucial decisions will be left without any guidelines.

Estate planning: Bidding a fond farewell to social media accounts

Almost everyone uses a computer these days. Most residents in Canada have a presence on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But what happens to those accounts when the person to whom they belong dies? That question can actually be answered ahead of time by everyone who takes the time to do some estate planning.

Social media can be a wonderful tool for sharing with family and friends -- especially those who live far away. It's a way of keeping connected. While people are posting these things, they're not thinking about their demise and what might happen to all the posts once they've died, but there are certain social media sites like Facebook that have thought about it. 

Estate planning in Canada: What happens to RRIFs after death?

Many people work hard all their lives to be able to enjoy their retirement years, but also to be able to leave something for their loved ones after they pass away. Part of good estate planning in Canada means knowing how to best maximize investments such as a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF). But what happens to an RRIF after someone dies? The answer basically hinges on two things: whether a beneficiary is named and, if so, who that beneficiary is.

There can be two different beneficiaries for an RRIF and a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP). Naming a beneficiary is vital if he or she is to receive the most from a late loved one's RRIF. If there isn't a beneficiary, an RRIF will be privy to estate probate fees and its value will be seen by Revenue Canada as income on the deceased person's final taxes. What's left will go to a beneficiary.

The all-encompassing job of executors in Canada

When writing a will, the testator (the writer) needs to name an executor. But what, exactly, does an executor do in Canada? Executors carry out the provisions of a decedent's will. But it's not always easy and it can be emotionally exhausting, so it's important to choose the right person for the job and to discuss it beforehand with the person to ensure he or she would be up to the task.

More often than not, it is usually the executor who makes all the arrangements for the deceased person's funeral, although anything in the way of those wishes in a will isn't legally binding. If family members want something different, it's up to them to sort it out. If the testator had any dependants or pets, the executor gets the responsibility of ensuring they're looked after as per the wishes of the deceased.

Multiple wills in Ontario may be better than one for tax purposes

Every adult should have a will. But there may be instances in Ontario where having multiple wills may be even more prudent, especially when it comes to lownering estate administration taxes as they're now known. Ontario is actually the only province to allow dual wills to assist with probate fees, which are amongst the highest in the country. Tax on the first $50,000 in assets of an estate is 0.5 percent, while any amount over that gets taxed with a 1.5 percent probate tax.

When utilizing more than one will, the main will is the one which would include those assets to be probated in court; in other words, a property that isn't owned jointly, bank accounts or shares in a public corporation. A second will would be for assets that don't have to be probated such as jewellery, art pieces, shares in a private company and so on. For those who own foreign property, a third will may even be advised.

Reducing estate planning costs in Canada

Even when someone dies, his or her debts must be paid. Those payments come from the person's estate. It's only after those debts have been taken care of and other expenses like funeral costs, taxes, legal fees and probate fees, if any, have been met that beneficiaries receive what they have been bequeathed. There are some prudent steps individuals can use to minimize those payments when estate planning.

The first and foremost way for individuals to ensure their heirs receive all they possibly can from their estates is to leave a will that's valid. Those who die intestate, or without a will, are leaving who gets what to chance since the government will step in to handle their affairs. Those who have assets like RRSPs, life insurance policies and other such accounts should make sure to name beneficiaries for them. Doing so will ensure the money goes directly to those the benefactor intends, and they will bypass the estate administration process. That money is not a part of probate fees when beneficiaries are named.

Choosing the right executors ensure last wishes are fulfilled

Choosing the right person to look after the handling of assets is a large part of successful estate planning. Executors are those (there can be more than one) who will ensure the last wishes of the deceased individual in Ontario are carried out. It's a duty that requires both time and decision-making skills. It's important to ask an individual whether he or she would be willing to act as executor instead of simply naming the person in a will.

Trust plays a large part in choosing the right person to look after someone's estate after they die. The testator -- the person who has made the will -- is placing his or her faith in the person to follow the instructions in the will. Someone with some financial savvy would also be a good choice as would an individual who gets along with others and perhaps know the testator's family members. Some people choose one or two of their children to be the executor(s) but that may not be the wisest choice -- depending upon family circumstances.

Canada estate planning: The workings of advance care directives

No one likes to think about getting sick but making plans for unforeseen events could make things much less stressful for loved ones. Estate planning could include an advance care directive -- a document that stipulates a person's wishes regarding medical care should the individual be incapacitated and thus unable to make those decisions. Those in Canada who have a serious illness might wish to discuss their wishes with their health care teams as well as family members, but having a document in place is a wise move.

An advance care plan or directive has also been called a living will. It is a legal document that allows individuals to appoint someone to make a decision on their behalf if they're too ill or unable to speak for themselves. Known as a substitute decision maker or health care proxy -- it is to this person healthcare personnel will turn to ask questions about care issues for the person that appointed them.