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Why is it important to review your Will?

wills Sep 04, 2019

Your Will is the document that specifies how your estate will be distributed upon your passing. Once it is made, it should be reviewed and updated to account for any major life changes. Many people will create a Will, store it in a safe place, and then forget about it, failing to consider that when it comes time to read the Will, it may not adequately address new or altered relationships and circumstances. Here are three reasons why you should review your Will:

You need to appoint a new Executor:

You may find that your Executor is no longer able to act (possible due to a change in their lifestyle, relocation, growing old, etc.), or that you simply want to name a new individual (or individuals, or a trust company) to administer your estate;

You are no longer in contact with a beneficiary:

If one of your beneficiaries has passed away, it is important to update your Will to ensure that their share is allocated according to your wishes;

You got divorced:

While Alberta law provides that...

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Should new parents create a will?

child guardian wills Aug 28, 2019

While having a Will ensures that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes when you die, it also ensures that your children will be cared for by someone you trust.

Thinking about who to appoint as the guardian of your children can be difficult and heartbreaking, but it is an important thought to have. By naming a guardian in your Will, you will have peace of mind in knowing that your children will be looked after by someone who loves them, by someone who wants them, and by someone who can care for them. You do not want your family to deal with a traumatic and costly custody dispute, arguing over who is best fit to act as guardian or over who they think you would have appointed.

From a legal standpoint, your Will is not the only document that you should consider creating. We also suggest creating a Personal Directive and Power of Attorney. Your Personal Directive appoints a guardian to care for your children in the event that you lose mental capacity (it also...

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What are the benefits of having a joint bank account with your spouse?

estate planning Aug 21, 2019

A bank account held jointly by spouses has many benefits – one being convenience. It enables both parties to deposit or withdraw monies in accordance with any guidelines set by the account. The pairing may choose to hold a primary joint account that is used to pay bills with ease, and to hold additional accounts in each of their individual names – and that is fair, but if the intent is to avoid probate altogether, this may not be functional.

If spouses hold a bank account jointly and one spouse passes away, the surviving joint owner will automatically obtain the deceased person’s share. This is known as a survivorship right, and it could facilitate the bypass of probate, but only if ALL assets are held jointly.

If not ALL of assets are held jointly by spouses, the accounts held in any one person’s name will form a part of the residue of their estate. If their spouse is the primary beneficiary on their Will, the spouse will still inherit the funds, but they...

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What do I do with the family cabin?

Family cabins provide memories of times sitting in the sun, sipping wine or drinking beer, however for some families the cottage goes from being the family castle to being the family haunted house.

Whenever a married couple owns a family cottage their wills should state who gets the cottage after the last of them dies. Many time the couple will want to give the cottage equally to all their children equally. While other times people may want to create various other vehicles for the ownership of the cottage such as the creation of a family to purchase the cottage, creation of a family trust, or a shared ownership agreement for the land. All of these schemes have their own positive and negative points and each families circumstances will determine which mechanism is the correct way to deal with the cottage. 

The best time to determine what should be done with the family cabin is when you are alive. After you die the options for handling this asset are extremely limited. If...

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What do you do if you find a body?

demise Aug 07, 2019

Our staff was at the West End Seniors Association Bigger Bolder Better Symposium the beginning of June. We had lots of questions about revising wills and probate but one of the top questions we received was  - WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND A BODY. I have to say my staff was stumped by this question, and we thought dial 911? Call the funeral home? Call the police? None of these answers seemed to address the concern that these seniors had about finding a friend or family member who had passed away.

In an effort to address the concerns raised, we have compiled a list of what to do when you find a body:

1. Don't Panic. Make sure you and your friends are family members are safe. If you come across a body in a home it could be a natural death or a death by carbon monoxide poisoning. Be aware and take all necessary precautions to make sure you aren't in harms way.

2. Check the vital signs of the person. The person may look like they are dead but they could be unconscious or...

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You Can't Give What you Ain't Got

wills Jul 31, 2019

We are constantly discussing the types of gifts people want to leave behind in their wills – and a lot of the time, people try to give away more than they actually have. These clients typically attend our office with a long list of who gets what. Once we examine their assets, determine the value of funds that will flow outside of their estate, and estimate how much tax will need to be paid upon their death, we sometimes discover that the number of gifts exceeds the value of their estate.

Monetary gifts (otherwise known as ‘legacies’) are easy for an executor to calculate. Consider this example: Jane has an $800,000.00 estate, wants to leave a $100,000.00 to each of her four children, and wishes that the residue of her estate be distributed to her spouse. Jane’s executor can easily determine the value of the residue after debts have been paid and legacies have been gifted. But, what if Jane’s estate value decreases upon her death? Unfortunately, life...

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Codicil vs. New Will: What should I do?

codicil wills Jul 24, 2019

Many people contact our office and want to make a small change to their wills. For some clients, it may be that their executor has died, or maybe their child is now old enough to become the executor. Whatever the change and reason for the change, we are often asked if the change should be done by Codicil or a will-re-write.

A codicil is a document separate from the original and apart from the will that makes an addition or a change to the will. In our office we try to avoid creating codicils to wills. So, the original will can be read along with the codicil which amends the original will. The executor and the beneficiaries will know what your original document said as well as what the change was. For example, if your original will had been written that you wanted your cousin, Jack to be the executor, and then you subsequently signed a codicil that revoked Jacks appointment and instead appointed your cousin Molly. Both Molly and Jack would know about this change. While no one would...

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Does your estate plan need a Henson Trust?

trusts Jul 17, 2019

In January 2019 the Supreme Court of Canada released a decision on the case of S.A. v. Metro Vancouver Housing Corp. 2019 SCC 4. This case is a positive decision for persons with a disability.

The case involved a 56-year-old women (S.with disabilities who couldn't work, and who was denied a housing subsidy in 2015 because she refused to provide the Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation information about a Henson trust that she had been left in her late fathers estate. The  women was told by the housing authority that even though she had lived in the complex since 1992, she no longer qualified for a rent subsidy unless she disclosed to the corporation the value of the Henson trust that was created by the 1/3 interest in her late fathers estate.

The housing Authority had a policy that rental subsidies would not be provided to people that had assets in excess of $25,000.00. The women and her sister were co-trustees of the Henson trust and took the position that the...

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Different Wills for Different Jurisdictions

wills Jul 10, 2019

Our clients are increasingly mobile and often have connections to multiple jurisdictions. They may own a house in Palm Springs, have bank accounts in the UK, a cottage in Croatia, or a business in Spain.

Our office once dealt with and estate where a husband and wife had been married for several years. They had three lovely children, and owned a successful business in Edmonton. When the husband passed, everything rolled over to his wife...BUT the condo in Hawaii! We had to take the Canadian will and have the Hawaiian courts reseal the grant of probate so that the condo could be sold. In Alberta this would have cost about $7000.00 Canadian. The courts in the US didn't seem to like the Canadian probate process  and it took 10 months and $13,000.00 to have the will recognized in Hawaii.

If you or your loved ones own property in other countries, how should you be handling this in your will? In Alberta, the will is governed by the law of where the client was living for property...

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9 Things to Consider When Selling Your Home (Part 2)

real estate Jul 03, 2019

Purchasing a home is likely to be the largest investment you make in your lifetime – so when you are ready to sell, it is important for you to understand the process of doing so.

In our last blog post, we discussed the first five things to consider when selling your home. Here are the final four considerations:

SIX: Fixtures

On the Purchase and Sale Agreement, the Seller must clearly identify the fixtures being sold with the house and differentiate them with the items they plan on taking that are attached to the walls, ceiling, or floor. Fixtures include anything that is physically attached to the property – such as furnaces, lighting fixtures, and satellite dishes. Household items that you can easily transport, such as patio furniture, sheds, picture mirrors, and picnic tables are not generally considered fixtures.

SEVEN: Closing Date

The closing/possession date will be stated in the Purchase and Sale Agreement. It is on this date that the property being sold is...

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