We work closely with professionals in the areas of accounting, trusts, banking, insurance and investments, in order to provide you with comprehensive and well-coordinated service.
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We provide advice upon and draft codicils for existing wills. They can often be useful when only minor changes are required for a will.
Acting as an Executor/Estate Trustee is a serious and demanding responsibility. We can assist you in completing all steps in the proper administration of an estate, including locating wills, locating, collecting and safeguarding assets, preparing all documents necessary to obtain court approval of your appointment as Executor, advising and dealing with income taxes and other estate liabilities, preparation and passing of the Executor’s Accounts, asset distributions (including land transfers) and the administration of ongoing trusts for infants or lifetime beneficiaries.
We have acted in disputes arising from improper will execution, incapacity, undue influence, and charitable gifts. We represent claimants, beneficiaries and estates in will challenges by disappointed spouses or children. We represent trustees, and disappointed beneficiaries in disputes arising from the administration of trusts, or investment by trustees, trustee compensation and the passing of trustee accounts.
Our estate planning services include wills drafting, structuring and implementing trusts and adult guardianship and incapacity planning. We work with your trusted financial advisors to develop comprehensive strategies to minimize taxes and other financial burdens on clients’ estates and to protect beneficiaries from needless expense and frustration.
We also assist with planned giving for charitable purposes. We provide comprehensive advice to business owners regarding estate freezes, corporate reorganizations, shareholders agreements and succession planning. We represent clients making applications for adult guardianship and advise regarding the responsibilities of trustees and guardians, and the use of enduring powers of attorney.
We represent clients in all levels of court, and in alternative dispute resolutions such as mediations regarding estate litigation arising from contested wills, trust variations, constructive trust claims and other estate-related matters.
We assist clients in creating and preserving wealth through estate planning, estate administration, mediation and, if necessary, litigation. Our clients include charities, family businesses, and individuals.
We provide information on estate planning to interested companies, organizations and groups. We also conduct business succession planning for family businesses.
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the right to act on your behalf.
A Continuing Power of Attorney for Property (CPOA) covers your financial affairs and allows the person you name to act for you even if you become mentally incapable.
A Power of Attorney for Personal Care (POAPC) covers your personal decisions, such as housing and health care.
These documents are most frequently used for when you are injured or temporarily incapacitated and unable to express your own wishes. A CPOA can also be used if you are away from your jurisdiction for a long time and wish someone else to be able to handle your financial affairs.
A Power of Attorney ceases to operate upon the death of the person whom granted the power.
Probate is a process that confirms executor authority to distribute assets of a deceased’s estate. Where required, provincial governments grant this authority by issuing a probate certificate known in Ontario as a “Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee With (or Without) a Will”. The Ontario government charges a fee for the certificate based on the value of the deceased’s estate.
Effective January 1, 2015, executors who apply for a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee With (or Without) a Will (ie. “Probate Certificate”) will be required to file an “Estate Information Return” with the Ministry of Finance within 90 calendar days after the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee is issued by the government. That is, once the executor applies for and receives a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee, the executor must submit a detailed Estate Information Return within 90 calendar days to provide details of how the estate’s value was determined. Failure to do so can result in a fine and/or imprisonment.
When spouses hold title to a property as “joint tenants” there is a right of survivorship. This means that if one spouse dies, the deceased’s interest passes to the surviving spouse. The surviving spouse becomes the sole owner of the property. When a joint tenant dies, it is necessary for the surviving spouse to complete a survivorship application in which title is transferred from both spouses’ names to the surviving spouse.
An estate trustee is the person, or one of the persons, named in the last will and testament of the deceased. An estate trustee is appointed specifically to administer the will and to ensure that the final wishes of the deceased are respected. It is someone who is considered trustworthy and responsible, and usually of a similar mind with respect to the disposition of the deceased’s estate.
It can be a spouse, often a close friend or family member; however, if the estate is complicated it may be a professional, such as a lawyer, certified general accountant or corporate trustee.
Since it is a position of trust, choosing an estate trustee—as well as accepting the responsibility of being an estate trustee—are decisions that merit considerable thought.
If a person dies without a valid will or without any will (intestate), the individual’s heirs, or someone acting on his or her behalf, must apply to the court for a certificate of estate administration without a will. The person or persons named in this certificate usually must furnish a bond to the court, and administer and distribute the estate in accordance with the Succession Law Reform Act of the province. However equitable it may be in law, this process is usually less than completely desirable, can be very expensive and may be a source of hardship (particularly if there are a number of young children involved). Responsible adults should make a will and review it periodically, particularly as their circumstances change.
An estate trustee should possess specific qualities. These include: availability, capability, sympathy, reliability and financial responsibility. At least one of the estate trustees should be younger than the testator.
A trust is created to hold property or assets for the benefit of a particular person called the beneficiary. It is managed by a person called a trustee, who has an obligation to deal with the property for the beneficiary of the trust. There are many different kinds of trusts.
Trusts are used in many different circumstances and come in different flavours. Anyone who has an RRSP or a RRIF has a trust. Our main use of trusts is for advanced corporate structuring. Trusts are used in corporate structuring to better protect your assets from future creditors. Trusts empower you to better deal with future financial difficulties. Additionally, trusts allow you to transfer shares in your corporations to other family members without losing control. For instance, a trust can be used so that every member in your family enjoys a $750,000.00 tax free capital gain on the sale of the shares in a qualified small business.
Another major use of trusts is for estate planning. In Canada, if you are over 65 years of age you can transfer assets into special types of trusts tax free which allows you to control your assets and enjoy the income while you live but which distributes your capital to your beneficiaries when you die. Many prefer to provide for the distribution of their capital to beneficiaries while they are of strong mind rather than having worried potential beneficiaries ask for a new will when you are near death. Testamentrary trusts (those in a will), that takes effect on death, also offer certain income tax benefits. With these estate planning trusts, you'll need to follow certain income tax rules in order to get the benefit you seek.
A trust can be set up for a specific purpose; such as to run a business or hold a specific parcel of land. In Canada, a person can set up a principal residence trust to better protect their home from future creditors while continuing to enjoy his or her principal residence capital gains exemption.
A will is a formal document setting out how your money, property and other assets (your “estate”) are to be distributed when you die. You can change your will at any time before your death, as long as you have the mental capacity to know and understand the change.
If you die without a valid will, a court will appoint someone to administer your estate and distribute the assets according to a formula set out in provincial estate and family laws.