Wills & Estates
Our firm provides complete services in all aspects of wills and estates law, including:
- will preparation
- estate planning and wealth preservation
- appointment of powers of attorney
- appointment of “committees” to manage the financial affairs of an elderly, incapacitated or mentally incompetent person
- creation and administration of family trusts
Our clients include individuals, owners and managers of businesses, family corporations and others. And, when appropriate, we work closely with tax consultants and accountants to ensure your best results.
A will is a written document containing instructions about how your possessions are to be shared among the people and organizations you want to inherit from you when you die. In B.C., it must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign. A handwritten will signed at the end, but not witnessed, is not valid in B.C. When we prepare your will, we keep a copy in our safe so your family members will know where to find it.
There are many reasons:
- To specify who gets what share of your estate.
- To name a legal guardian for your children.
- To appoint an executor (the person who will look after your affairs after your death).
If you marry after making a will, your will becomes invalid, unless it says you made it in contemplation of getting married. Also, if you divorce after making a will, the parts that relate to your ex-spouse may no longer be valid. You should therefore check your will from time to time to see if it needs updating.
The executor applies to the court to “probate” the will. Probate is a procedure to prove the will is valid and establish your right to act as executor. In general, the executor takes control of the estate, notifies creditors and everyone legally entitled to know about the death (in case they want to challenge the will), ensures that valuables are safely stored and proper home and other insurance is still in effect, pays the bills, manages any trust funds, distributes the bequests and files a terminal tax return.
Acting as executor can be time consuming, and you can be personally sued if you do not administer the estate properly. If you are named as executor, we can help you with all the steps required. The legal fees are usually paid from the estate.
If a person dies without a will, the Estate Administration Act dictates who inherits. If the deceased leaves behind a spouse only, the spouse will inherit everything. If the deceased leaves behind children, generally his or her spouse will get the first $65,000 of the estate and can live in the family home for life. Then, if there is only one child, the balance will be divided equally between the spouse and child. If there is more than one child, the spouse will get one third of the balance and the children will share the remainder. There may also be some unfavourable tax consequences if there is no will.
A will is only one part of establishing the best plan for your needs. We can assist with arranging the ownership of your assets, setting up trusts, arranging life insurance, preparing powers of attorney, reorganizing corporate structures and establishing other ways to best preserve your assets for those you want to benefit.