WILLS &

ESTATES

Wills & Estates is a very dynamic area of law. It encompasses the drafting of wills, estate planning, probate, letters of administration, powers of attorney, personal directives, estate litigation, guardianship and trusteeship issues, and much more.

WILLS

WILLS & ESTATES

 

A will is a legal document that determines what happens with your estate when you pass away. Your estate is comprised of all your property and debts – money, property, investments, vehicles, sentimental items, and even your pets. If you don't have a will, your estate will go in “administration” which is the default government mandated distribution and management of your property. It's important for everyone to have a will. Administration isn't a simple process. And likely, it will not take into account all of your wishes after you pass.

The death of a loved one is a horrible experience for everyone involved. This process is made tremendously more difficult if a person doesn't have a will that provides clear and concise directions for the distribution of that person's estate upon death.

One in three Canadians do not have wills. Many people think that a will is a tool to distribute your money after you die. This assumption is wrong. A will does much more. If you have income, assets, debts, a partner, children, relatives, friends, pets and animals, or even an item that is important to you, you should have a will to leave clear direction what will happen should you pass away.

 

WILLS

WILLS & ESTATES

 

A will is a legal document that determines what happens with your estate when you pass away. Your estate is comprised of all your property and debts – money, property, investments, vehicles, sentimental items, and even your pets. If you don't have a will, your estate will go in “administration” which is the default government mandated distribution and management of your property. It's important for everyone to have a will. Administration isn't a simple process. And likely, it will not take into account all of your wishes after you pass.

The death of a loved one is a horrible experience for everyone involved. This process is made tremendously more difficult if a person doesn't have a will that provides clear and concise directions for the distribution of that person's estate upon death.

One in three Canadians do not have wills. Many people think that a will is a tool to distribute your money after you die. This assumption is wrong. A will does much more. If you have income, assets, debts, a partner, children, relatives, friends, pets and animals, or even an item that is important to you, you should have a will to leave clear direction what will happen should you pass away.

TYPES OF WILLS

Holograph Will

A holograph will is a will written in one's own handwriting. It needs to be signed and dated, but not witnessed. They are not legal in all provinces in Canada, but they are legal in Alberta. However, interpretation of holograph wills can be costly if they are drafted with ambiguity or lack of important details.

Will Kit

You've probably seen these "do-it-yourself" will kits in stores. Follow the instructions and fill in the blanks.

Formal Wills

One of the biggest concerns for those looking to draft a will is saving money. While a handwritten will or a will kit can save you money in the short-term, honest mistakes in drafting or wording can have serious effects on how your will is interpreted and or executed should you pass away. If legal action is required to rectify or interpret a poorly drafted will, it can incur significant costs on your estate or your loved ones.

Directions that seem simple, like "I give my house to my children", might not have sufficient clarity. For example, "children", is that your biological children or step-children. How should value of the property be assigned? Equally? Jointly? Shares in common?

Wills that are signed incorrectly might not be valid either, leaving your estate and its distribution to the mercy of our legislation. What if you have special instructions? What if you have pets or grandchildren? What if you have property outside the jurisdiction? Do you need a trust to make sure that beneficiaries 

 

Ambiguous directions you give may be unclear (for example, “children”: is that biological only? step children?). You may sign it improperly (for example, use a beneficiary’s spouse as a witness) and sometimes not at all. I find that most people don’t think about the “what if’s” – what if I leave it to Jane but she dies before me? What if Jane and I die in a common accident? What if I have grandchildren? What if the house I am giving to my wife and young children is uninsured and mortgaged to the hilt? If you need a trust in your will, even a simple one (perhaps you have a special needs child or sibling, maybe you don’t want your children to get all their inheritance when they are only eighteen (18)) I believe you must use an experienced lawyer who specializes in Wills and Estates.

If you bring a lawyer the proper background information, usually a very complete Will Questionnaire, and talk with them about what is important to you, you will get a well-planned, clean and thoughtful roadmap for your Executor to follow upon your death.

 

ESTATE

PLANNING

ESTATE PLANNING

 

An estate plan is more than just a properly drafted will. An estate plan encompasses the entire process of dealing with life's unexpected situations and lays down the groundwork for how these unexpected situations will be dealt with. It provides security, peace-of-mind, and can seriously cut financial costs. Proper estate planning can:

  • Give directions on the care of elderly parents, children, pets, and loved ones with disabilities before your death and after

  • Provide a blueprint for security during life should a catastrophic incident occur that renders you incapable of making financial or medical decisions on your own

  • Maximize the value of your estate, taking into consideration tax, RRSPs, RIFs, investments, and other assets so it doesn't end up in the hands of the Government

A proper estate plan usually includes the following instruments:

  • Will

  • Enduring Power of Attorney

  • Personal Directive (Living Will)

It might also include:

  • Cohabitation Agreement of Estate Property Agreement​​

  • Trusts

    • Trusts allow money to remain with a trustee (a caretaker) with particular instructions on how the money be dealt with. This is helpful when dealing with minor children or beneficiaries with special needs.​

  • Tax planning​

  • Appointing guardians

  • Avoiding estate litigation

  • Business succession planning

  • Transfer of business assets and shares

Every estate is different. Estates are dynamic with respect to the type and value of assets, the number of people involved, and the structure by which they are set up and maintained.

RISKS OF NOT PLANNING/PREPARING YOUR ESTATE

 

Unfortunately, failing to adequately prepare or plan your estate can end up costing much more than taking steps early. The Government of Alberta recommends that everyone takes at least minimal steps to plan their estate.

Failing to create a plan for your estate can incur the following risks:

  • Your estate might not go to the people you want it to go to

  • Paying more taxes

  • Minor beneficiaries given lots of money before they are old enough to deal with it

  • Your estate might be managed by someone you haven't chosen

  • Your estate might be managed poorly

  • Your business might suffer losses or transfer

  • People around you may fight over your estate

We can help you with all of this. Just get in touch. It's less daunting than it seems. We're here to help.

 

POWER OF

ATTORNEY

POWER OF ATTORNEY

 

Wills, trusts, estate planning, power of attorney, personal directives, probate, letters of administration, guardianship, trusteeship, and estate litigation.