Hagel Lawfirm
Menu Contact

Contact Today For Experienced Representation

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

Mississauga Wills & Estates Law Blog

Staying organized and professional can ease estate administration

Those who are named as executors can find themselves swimming in fairly complicated waters. Some people taking on the challenge of estate administration are in the enviable position of being the sole beneficiary and having no family conflicts. However, for the majority of Ontario executors, maintaining professionalism and doing everything by the book is important in order to avoid legal challenges from other beneficiaries.

Those who are administering an estate must serve the best interests of the beneficiaries within the constraints of the will and the law. It is important to keep beneficiaries informed of activities related to the estate on a fairly regular basis. This will hopefully provide them with the confidence that everything is being done fairly and professionally.

Experts more trusted for estate administration, poll shows

Online tools are increasingly popular for those looking to tackle some of life's most tedious or even complicated tasks. But are people in Ontario and throughout Canada ready to hand over their important financial and legal matters, such as major investments and estate administration, to online services? According to a recent poll, trusted experts are still preferred when it comes to important decisions.

The poll, conducted by CIBC, asked approximately 3,000 Canadian adults who they would turn to when making important life decisions. Two thirds of the respondents said they would turn to friends and family for advice on several life events, including marriage, buying a home or finding employment. This percentage was highest with younger Canadians, with 78 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds putting family and friends high on their list.

Potential estate administration challenges with family farms

Valuable real estate is bound to be a challenge when it comes to writing a will, especially if there are multiple beneficiaries. But this challenge can deepen if the land is a working farm, especially if the intention is to keep the farm in business rather than sell it. Without proper planning, communication and documentation, the Ontario farmers' dreams of a multi-generational business can turn into an estate administration nightmare for their families.

There are several things that can make estate administration a challenge for the beneficiaries of farmers. One major challenge is that capital gains taxes or probate can force the sale of a farm. Rural properties in Ontario can often carry a hefty pricetag, and even farmland exemptions keeping the land in the family after death requires some planning.

Can verbal promises made outside a will lead to litigation?

When someone decides to change a detail of a will, it is often not enough to just declare the intention aloud. Rather, Ontario planners should always put changes in writing to avoid future conflict. When this is not done, and someone insists a promise was made that is not included in the legal documents, it can lead to estate litigation through an estoppel claim.

There are many instances when an estoppel claim can arise. For example, a caretaker that the person being cared for promised to leave the caretaker a sentimental item. Or, a significant other could claim a promise was made to include him or her in the will. When these claims are for sizable amounts, sentimental items or contradict the understanding of those in the will, this can lead to significant conflict.

Is it a good idea to name executors that are also beneficiaries?

Conflict of interest is often a question that arises when creating estate plans. Specifically, some people may wonder if naming a beneficiary as an executor could lead to a will being challenged. Certainly, Ontario wills that name beneficiaries as executors do have an added layer of complexity, but this is very common practice and can be a fine solution if navigated properly.

People tend to name beneficiaries to execute their estate due to trust. This person is typically very close, often family, and aware of the person's assets, liabilities and wishes. There is also an argument that a beneficiary will have more incentive to do a good job with estate administration, since they often feel an obligation to the other beneficiaries and the person who named them.

Why updating estate plans is a good New Year's resolution

For many, the start of a new year is an opportunity to set goals and mark the direction for the year to come. Financial resolutions are commonplace for many Ontario adults, whether it's making a budget, earning more or safeguarding assets. When it comes to the latter, be sure to keep estate plans on your radar. Updating early and often can help prevent litigation in the future.

When setting a resolution, experts suggest that laying out specific steps and timelines can help motivate actions. With estate planning, steps can include compiling a list of assets and liabilities, contacting a lawyer and drafting supporting documentation. Working with experts, like lawyers or financial planners, who can lay out these steps clearly can also help people stick to their resolutions.

Managing estate administration with sentimental items

When it comes to distributing assets and fulfilling final wishes upon death, high-valued items are often at risk of becoming most contentious. But, it is important for Ontario executors to consider that value can extend beyond the financial and also include emotional impact. Sentimental items, even those with lesser value in the marketplace, can be a significant cause of issues in estate administration. Here are some tips for executors who may be handling these touchy situations.

First, it is important for beneficiaries to be on the same page about the contents of a will early on. If possible, these conversations should take place while the owner of the sentimental items is still alive. However, if this isn't possible, bringing people together at the beginning to raise certain items of particular significance and negotiate what they may like can avoid conflict later down the line.

Outdated wills can end in estate litigation

Most people know that it is a good idea to draft a legal will. Done correctly, documenting one's wishes for after he or she passes is an ongoing process that typically requires regular updates. Outdated estate plans that do not take into account new wealth, family relations, debt and other issues can lead to serious conflicts for Ontario families and executors. Annual review and updates at key points throughout life can help to prevent these issues.

In short, a will should be reviewed any time there is a change in assets or family status. An asset change could include a large purchase, such as a house or vehicle, or a significant change in debt status. For business owners, wills should also be reviewed at the launch or close of a business as well as during its growth. 

Key business planning decisions to prevent estate litigation

When someone dies, particularly without a binding and well-communicated plan in place, it is not uncommon for disputes to arise regarding assets and succession. This is particularly true for business owners, who often own one more more complex nonliquid assets in their businesses. There are a few key decisions Ontario business owners can make in advance to ease this transition and avoid estate litigation.

The first decision that must be made is whether to transfer the business to another person, or to sell it upon the owner's passing. This decision can be somewhat complicated if the business has multiple owners. It can also be complicated if the owner has a child or children interested in running the business who may not have the skills to do so, or if there are multiple children but only one is interested in proceeding with the business. However, avoiding this decision ultimately puts those left behind in a difficult position, so it is important to explore options and make wishes known.

Pros and cons of naming multiple executors

When taking on a big and complicated task, it can be good to have help. This is often the thinking behind naming two or more executors to an estate. There are clear advantages to having two types of expertise and perspectives when taking on a big task like executing an Ontario estate. But, the risk of conflict can also make this a challenging situation in practice, depending on the arrangement. Here are some things to think about in these cases.

One of the positives of naming co-executors is allowing for checks and balances. Another is having a professional perspective for certain tasks. For example, someone might name a child, along with an accountant, as executor.