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Mississauga Wills & Estates Law Blog

Preparing for estate administration with proper planning

Ontario residents can spend a number of years working to build their wealth in order to enjoy retirement and provide for their families after death. After making years of good decisions to accomplish these goals, they would be remiss in failing to appropriately plan for estate administration. Creating a plan that allows surviving loved ones to move forward with as little complications as possible can rectify this problem.

Before considering what happens upon death, Ontario residents need to address what happens if they become incapacitated at some point. Powers of attorney can appoint a trusted person or people to handle issues such as finances and health care decisions. They also prevent family members from having to spend time and money in court to receive the same authority.

Control who handles your property when capacity is an issue

Not every Ontario family gets along. While some members get along and have each other's best interests at heart, this may not be the case for others. Estate planning accounts for this by allowing you to retain control over who handles your property when capacity becomes an issue.

After spending a lifetime accumulating assets, there could come a time when you are no longer able to manage them. An illness or injury could incapacitate you. If that should happen, it would be best to have a plan in place for someone to step in and take care of your property.

Estate administration begins before a probate is filed

The death of a loved one can devastate an Ontario family. While many family members want time to process their grief, certain tasks need attention nearly right away. Many people believe that the work does not begin until the probate is filed, but the estate administration process actually begins much sooner.

Notifications of the death are vital. For instance, if an Ontario resident received any benefits such as retirement or government benefits, letting the appropriate parties know as quickly as possible helps prevent the receipt of payments that the estate will need to return. In addition, survivor's benefits may be available, which could help with interim expenses while the probate progresses.

A person's emotions could sabotage estate administration

Few people here in Ontario or elsewhere want to voluntarily sit and contemplate their own deaths. Even so, this is exactly what they have to do in order to build an estate plan. If emotions get in the way of taking this step, it could sabotage and unnecessarily complicate the estate administration process for surviving family members who must ultimately deal with the estates.

Other than not wanting to think or talk about dying, another impediment is the family dynamic. Perhaps one child is going through a divorce while another is having another child. One child could have a drug or alcohol problem. One grandchild may need money for college, but another grandchild does not even want to attend. It is questions and situations like these that can make deciding how to divide up an estate more complicated than some people are willing to work through in order to create an estate plan.

Is estate administration tax due on every Ontario estate?

It often feels as though there are several loose ends to tend to when an Ontario resident dies. If an individual left an estate plan, that should make the process go more smoothly. Those documents can also help determine whether and how much estate administration tax is due.

Ontario now calls probate fees the estate administration tax. The amount due is based on the total value of the property owned by the decedent at death. For instance, if a loved one owned a home, a car and had bank accounts at the time of death, this tax would represent a percentage of the total value of those assets.

Clarifying your estate plan with a letter of intent

Many Ontario residents wonder whether the arrangements they made for their property after their death will meet with contention and suspicion from surviving loved ones. This could happen if no one understands the intent behind the decisions made. A letter outlining this and other information could prove invaluable to them during the estate administration process since it can be provided to loved ones prior to death.

This would not only provide an explanation regarding an individual's choices regarding the distribution of his or her assets, but also provide valuable information needed in order to better handle gathering and identifying assets in advance of estate administration. This list should also include any digital assets -- even social media accounts. Having this sensitive information is necessary in order to wrap up an estate, but does not necessarily belong in a will.

Blended families can encounter challenging estate administration

The definition of family has changed dramatically in recent decades. Many Ontario families have stepparents, stepchildren and half-siblings. When it comes to providing for them after death, residents often want to make sure that everyone receives their fair share. Without careful planning, blended families can easily encounter challenges when it comes to estate administration.

To begin efforts to avoid this eventuality, Ontario residents need to make sure that they answer the right questions as they consider estate planning. For example, one of the first issues is to determine who will receive what part of an estate. Next, how will each heir or beneficiary receive his or her share? In some cases, creating a trust may be better in order to control how and when an inheritance is received.

Helping the family find all assets during estate administration

When someone dies here in Ontario or elsewhere, surviving family members must gather all of the assets accumulated by the decedent that he or she owned at death. This includes large items such as a home down to small items such as jewelry, and everything in between that requires some attention during estate administration. What some people seem to miss is those assets that exist only online or on a computer.

Most Ontario residents have digital assets. Documents and photos stored on a computer are only the beginning. It may not seem like accounting for these types of things would be important, but when family members are looking for reminders and keepsakes from a deceased family member, it could take them some time to realize that those assets are online. If they are already identified and delineated in an estate plan, it would take less time and effort.

What kind of authority does an Ontario guardian receive?

Taking over the decision-making process for a loved one can be a daunting prospect. Most family members who undertake this task want to do their best, but may not understand what it entails. Becoming a guardian for an Ontario resident comes with numerous responsibilities and duties.

Stepping into a person's shoes to make decisions for them begins with determining what would maximize his or her quality of life. This often means that every choice made should start with considering the comfort of the loved one in question. The wishes of the incapable person may be taken into consideration as well. For instance, he or she may desire to live in a certain place. In considering living arrangements for the incapable person, it will also be necessary to consider health care and other needs.

Leaving the most assets available during estate administration

After spending your career building wealth, you may want to make sure that you can leave a legacy for your family members after you pass away. You can continue to build your financial portfolio with the help of an Ontario financial advisor. You may also want to make sure that most of the assets you own at your death go to your loved ones during the estate administration process.

You could accomplish this by including an estate planning and probate lawyer as part of your team. The reason that you hire a financial advisor is because you do not have the knowledge it takes to properly invest and grow your assets. The question is whether you can trust that person to look out for your best interests. It might not hurt to have someone working with him or her to make sure your estate continues to grow and serves you during your life and your family after your death.