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Who needs an estate plan?

Every adult should have a plan for what happens to their estate.  Learn more about estate plans here.

Who needs a Power of Attorney for Property?

Every adult.  Incapacity can happen at any time.  If you become unable to manage your finances, the alternative to a power of attorney – a court application for appointment of a guardian – is slow, expensive and complex.  Learn more.

Who needs a Will?

Most but not all adults need a will.

Joint ownership of houses and beneficiaries designations can, if planned properly, remove the need for a will if your affairs are relatively simple (and a simple will on top will cover off the lose ends).  Having no will or only a very simple basic will works best for folks who are in long term marriages and who end up being the first of the two to pass away.

People whose spouse has passed away (widows and widowers), people in common law relationships, people with blended families, and people recently separated from their spouses should DEFINITELY make an up to date estate plan and will.

Is joint ownership of a house a simple solution?

With your spouse? Maybe.  With a child?  NO.   You should get good planning advice before making your house joint with anyone other than your spouse when your affairs and obligations are simple (no blended families).  Do not make your house joint with one of your adult children without qualified legal advice.  Learn more here.

Aren’t joint bank accounts easier than powers of attorney and wills?

No.  Joint bank accounts can create much more grief than they solve.  You should get good legal advice before making a bank account joint with anyone other than your spouse, especially an adult child.

Do beneficiary designations matter?

Yes! Beneficiary designations on RRSPs, RRIFs, TFSAs, and life insurance are EXTREMELY important.  If you do not know precisely what your designations are and how they fit in your estate plan you should get legal advice to make a proper plan.  Designations are very powerful, and can work wonderfully – but they can also cause enormous tax problems and unfairness. Learn more here.

Are all wills the same?

No.  Estate planning ranges from very simple to very complex.  The same is true for wills.  If your affairs are simple (first spouse and family, no assets outside Ontario, no shares in private companies, want your entire estate to go to your spouse or your children equally  …) then you may be able to use a simple online or legal will kit.  If your will is simple but you want advice on whether your entire plan, including beneficiary designations hangs together properly, you should get a ‘legal review’.  If your affairs are more complex (blended family, obligations to former spouse or children, disabled children, private company shares, assets outside Ontario, desire to have trusts for beneficiaries or treat your beneficiaries unequally ….) you should get proper legal advice.  A dollar well spent know may save thousands of dollars and years of grief later.

Are there strict rule to follow?

Yes, there are important rules to follow for all powers of attorney, wills and amendments to them.  Unless these rules are followed precisely, the document may be useless.

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