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Executor Compensation: How much should I give?

executor Nov 13, 2019

Being an Executor (or personal representative as they are known in Alberta) is hard work. Once you have picked someone you trust who can be responsible to wind up your estate, attention to detail so they can deal with all the little things surrounding your demise, and the tenacity to keep going and complete the job until the end. 

When you ask someone to be your executor you are asking someone to take one year out of their life to wind up your property. In many cases the executor is not the only beneficiary, but they get stuck with all the hard work while the others dont have this burden. 

In Alberta your Executor is entitled to executor compensation for their services. This fee is in addition to any of the costs that they incur in handling your estate, such as mileage, parking, and even purchasing cleaning supplies.  In rough terms, the executor of an estate is usually entitled to compensation in the range of 2-3% of the total value of the estate. The proper amount...

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Can you be held liable for the wrongdoings of your co-executor?

executor Nov 06, 2019

It is an executor's ethical responsibility to act in the best interest of the estate; but what happens when you are paired with a co-executor who is acting irresponsibly? Can you be held liable?

In general, a co-executor can only be held liable for their own actions, inactions, errors, or for assets that they personally dealt with. This rule protects them from liability in situations where they were unaware of their co-executor taking money from estate bank accounts, selling assets under fair market value, or benefiting themselves in a manner that went against the testator's wishes.

The exception to this rule is willful blindness - a term that refers to the deliberate failure to make a reasonable inquiry of a wrongdoing. If an executor has any suspicion or awareness of fraud, but makes no attempt to cease the mishandling of the estate, they can be held liable for their partner's crime. As it is their duty to ensure that the estate is being...

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Can you renounce your duties as executor?

executor Oct 30, 2019

Being named as the executor of an estate is an honour, but it is also a major undertaking. It can be difficult, time-consuming and emotionally draining. You may not want to accept the position because you are either grieving or ageing, or because you reside outside of Alberta, are traveling abroad, do not have the time, do not have the knowledge, do not believe you can handle the position, or simply do not want to act - nor do you have to. It is important to remember that you have the option to renounce your duties as executor.

The procedure for renouncing your appointment as executor is relatively simple - but it must be done prior to the administration of the estate. You cannot renounce if you have taken steps to handle the estate or if you have told people that you are acting as executor - this is called intermeddling. Examples include:

  1. Planning a large and expensive funeral that the estate must pay for;
  2. Advising the bank that you are acting as...
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Should I appoint joint executors in my will?

executor Oct 23, 2019

A Co-executor is by definition a bunch of people who work on an estate together. They share in the duties and responsibilities of the estate work. Co-Executors are to work together and be of one mind on all estate decisions. An exception to this rule, is where the will specifically says if the co-executors do not agree then a majority vote allows executors to act in a certain way.

Having all co-executors agree on anything is frequently impossible. This is to be expected when you have two or three different views on how a situation should be handled. The co-executors views (and their spouses views) may clash when they are grieving and suddenly having to deal with an estate and the stress of handling it. Many times co-executors cease to be able talk to each other or work together. 

Unfortunately, many people who make their own will, think it is a good idea to put all their children as executors as they think this will be more fair. The end result is that the estate ends up...

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How "out of the box" can I be when writing my will?

wills Oct 16, 2019

While many people don't have a Will in Canada (51% according a 2016 Angus Reid Institute poll), some of us can't help but leave little creative twists in the ones we do make. There are a range of example, take for instance Roger Brown; in his Will he bequeathed 3500 pounds be left to his seven friends so long as they use it to fund a "boozy trip" to Europe. 

Or perhaps some prefer the sweeter bequest by Jack Benny,  a US comedian, who left instructions that one long-stemmed rose be delivered everyday to his widow’s home.

There is also the very public-spirited bequeath left anonymously in 1928 which stipulated that half a million pounds, now worth roughly 350 million pounds, be used to clear the national debt. However, the money can only be used once it is enough to clear the whole of the national debt in Britain, and so the money sits untouched to this day as the debt grows to above 1 trillion pounds. 

In another example, Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral de Camara,...

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Video Wills: Verifying a Testator's Intention

wills Oct 09, 2019

Something that is often forgot throughout lengthy, expensive and emotionally exhausting estate litigation cases is that the court is taking so much care and diligence, and thus time, in hearing these cases because they are trying to determine the intentions of a person who has passed.

This task is rendered all the more difficult if there is ambiguity in wording, missing information or uncertainty in which is the true last Will of the testator. The focus for today’s blog is the latter of these issues: verifying a true last Will and Testament.

The ‘ambiguity’ in determining the authenticity of a Will can take a large amount of time and expense: from a hand-writing expert’s time, a lawyer’s time to prove the case and the expense of litigation to determine acquiescence to formalities and validity of the Will. In this digital age, it is not shocking that some have turned to videotaping Will signings in an attempt to demonstrate capacity of the testator and...

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The Line Between Influence and Undue Influence

wills Oct 02, 2019

In a time that should be allocated to grieving over the loss of a loved one and celebrating their life before passing, the friends and family of Brooke Astor were thrown in a legal battle that lasted almost 7 years after her death in 2007.

The Astor fortune was said to be around $100 million at the time of Brooke Astor’s death, and as a well known philanthropist, Mrs. Astor left much of that to charity, while still providing very generous legacies to her many friends and family members. Of particular importance to this cautionary blog is her bequest to her son, Anthony Marshall, from her second marriage. She had left him a sum of approximately $31 million in her 2002 Will. In the years leading up to Mrs. Astor’s death, Marshall and his lawyer, Francis Morrissey, had the ailing Mrs. Astor sign three (3!) codicils changing her original Will to give less and less to charity each time, and more and more control and money to Marshal. In the end the two attempted to cheat Mrs....

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The Power of a Written List

estate planning wills Sep 25, 2019

When thinking of the legacies you are leaving people, it can be difficult to decide what to give and to whom. Money is often a large part of inheritance, but perhaps there are certain items you wish to bequeath to family and friends as a way to remember you. To whom and what you bequeath is an important consideration that is worthy of as much time as is put into considering your residuary beneficiaries. 

What are the main concerns?

What you leave to your loved ones after your passing can define the legacy left to them. Being too ambiguous in leaving heirlooms opens the door for litigation and disputes over the distribution of your personal property after you pass.  While it is possible and recommended to bequeath items you know you want to pass on in your Will, your collections and personal property may change from when you have a Will created and when you pass. It is always possible to leave a memorandum that directs your executor to distribute your...

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Drop the Mic: We have a Canada Wide Wills Registry!

firm updates Sep 18, 2019

The silence is always deafening.

At least once a week over the last 18 years, I have had to end a will signing on an uncomfortable note. Shortly after the document has been signed and my staff have left the room to make the necessary copies, the client asks when I will be registering their will.

I swallow and clear my throat - there is no will registry in Alberta. I have no place to register your documents. The client looks at me and expectantly says "WHAT?" They are shocked and amazed that we have no will registry in Alberta. How will their loved one locate their will if they die or are disabled? How will they prove the will they have just signed and put all their hopes and dreams into will be located after they die? 

Thankfully, I will not have to endure this uncomfortable silence ever again. NoticeConnect has managed to create what all wills and estates lawyers have dreamed of - a Canada Wide Wills Registry.

The service is brilliant in its...

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Who should you appoint as your executor?

estate planning executor Sep 11, 2019

Appointing an Executor to administer and handle your estate is an important decision. This is the person (or people – or organization) that you are entrusting with the disposition of your property and possessions. Basically, your Executor will grant your final wishes.

Here are three things to consider when appointing an Executor:

1. Age and Qualifications

It is important to take the qualifications of your Executor into consideration. While they are not required to be an expert in finance or in law, they may be more comfortable in the role if they have had experience submitting taxes, selling a home, locating assets, paying debts, etc. This consideration strongly corresponds to your Executor’s age. Many people want to name their children as Executor – and while it depends on the situation at hand, our office generally recommends a minimal age of twenty-five (25) years;

2. Skills and Ability to Perform Duties

While the disposition of your estate is largely...

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