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Garton & Harris Wills and Estates Blog

Consider digital assets when preparing wills

Those who are planning for the succession of their wealth often focus on real estate, bank accounts, beloved items and dependants in their estate plans. However, an increasing number of less tangible assets are making their way into British Columbia wills. Digital assets, a term for access to accounts and technology that may carry financial or emotional value, is a growing topic of discussion in estate planning circles.

"Digital asset" is an umbrella term that can apply to any number of item or accounts. This may include online accounts like emails, social media accounts, blogs, cloud-based document folders, online subscriptions and rewards account. It can also include login information to access hard drives on a computer or phone. Finally, online subscriptions and payment methods should be considered as subscriptions will likely need to be cancelled after death.

Estate administration: When one executor lives abroad

Having an estate plan is vitally important for all adults regardless of their circumstances. In fashioning an estate plan, British Columbia residents must keep in mind who will be involved in estate administration once the time comes and there are a few things to think about when choosing an executor -- especially if the executor doesn't live in the country. For example, if a parent names two children as executors and one lives abroad, there may be some hurdles to overcome, but it could work.

Firstly, anyone who lives outside of Canada who is named an executor could renounce that decision by signing a renunciation form. If a nonresident executor does choose to take on the role, it might be difficult for him or her to access Canadian bank accounts, even though he or she has the right to make decisions regarding the estate. If the person lives in the States, tax implications might have to be overcome as well.   

Wills: When an adult child and executor lives abroad

Having a comprehensive estate plan is a wise move for every individual, especially when children are involved. British Columbia residents, however, who have adult children living stateside should have another look at their wills to ensure all legal aspects are met and that there won't be issues when the time comes for those wills to come into play, especially when that adult child is not only a beneficiary, but also an executor. Getting over some of the hurdles may be time-consuming and expensive.

If one of the executors of a Canadian will lives in the United States, he or she will likely need to get a foreign executor's bond before the will can be probated. That bond should be equal to or up to two times the value of the assets of the estate. Failing that, the person can ask the court for an order to forgo the requirement for bonding which can take a lot of time and increased legal fees. It is also not a sure thing the court will grant that request. 

Wills: Keeping the peace in British Columbia families

Talking about an inheritance may not be the easiest discussion parents will ever have with their adult children. Speaking to children about wills and other estate planning documents may not be pleasant, but it is necessary. British Columbia residents who want to keep peace in their families when they're gone should really discuss who will be getting what when the time comes and give their children the chance to weigh in with their thoughts and feelings.

No parent wants to feel that their children believe they're being treated unfairly. Discussing estate planning -- especially when blended families are involved -- allows siblings to avoid a potential fallout regarding their inheritance. Open, honest discussion is one way to make everything work and to help everyone involved understand where each person is coming from. 

Estate administration and estate planning for common law couples

Some couples may have lived together for years, yet choose to remain unmarried. Things are different today than they were decades ago and it has become socially acceptable for couples to live in common law unions. But some things still aren't so easy for such couples and one of them involves estate planning so that estate administration in British Columbia can be as seamless as possible when the time comes.

Firstly, nearly half of all adult Canadians don't have a will. That can be an additional issue for common law couples who may manage their finances separately. Common law partners might want to look out for some mistakes to avoid when writing their estate plans.

Preventing power of attorney problems at the bank

Individuals who choose someone to act on their behalf want to avoid potential horror stories at all costs. British Columbia residents who are choosing someone to act on a power of attorney should be mindful of what it takes to do the job. One of the issues they could come up against is whether a bank will trust that individual since it is incumbent upon banks to safeguard people's finances.

Banks have the power to reject a power of attorney. They may do this for several reasons including if the document is outdated, if the document isn't clear or if the document doesn't conform to the bank's policies. Banks have also refused a power of attorney because they had never met the person acting on it, the person with the bank account didn't sign internal bank document or a parent wasn't able to physically get to the bank to notify the institution that he or she had authorized a child to act on a power of attorney.

Wills are important for having last wishes carried out

Life moves quickly. Everyone is caught up in living his or her own life and often very little attention is paid to the future and to the unforeseen events that might happen. British Columbia residents need to take some time out of their busy schedules to consider fashioning their wills as well as other estate planning documents. It's necessary to be prepared.

Having last wishes in writing is crucial for them to be carried out. It's not good enough telling family members. A will provides specific instructions regarding assets and to whom they should be left. Having help to draft a proper and legally binding will makes things go much smoother after a testator passes away. There are things that need to be in place for a will to be binding and a lawyer can ensure those criteria are met.

Common sense should accompany a power of attorney

Fraud has long been associated with some aspects of estate planning. British Columbia residents who are planning their estates and deciding on someone to look after their power of attorney should take the time to make a prudent decision and choose someone they trust implicitly. A power of attorney is an extremely potent document and the person chosen to act on someone else's behalf, should the person be unable to do so, needs to be someone who can manage a grantor's financial affairs responsibly.

Financial institutions need to ensure the person who is acting on a power of attorney actually has the authority to do so. Banks have the right to refuse a power of attorney for a number of reasons: the document may be outdated, could be unclear or doesn't conform to the bank's policies. They have the right to question any circumstances they believe to appear suspicious.

What does “Probate” mean?

The probate process is when a court declares a will to be valid, and authorizes the named executor to administer the estate. It’s an important step in the estate administration process - but many people may not realize they need to perform this step.

The average person is most likely not familiar with estate laws, as he or she may not have to deal with the loss of life on a daily basis. However, an experienced estate lawyer assists different people with this step regularly, and can provide you with assistance on what happens next after a loved one passes away.

Estate adminstration: RRSPs and RRIFs of a decedent

Taxes are something about which most adults are concerned. It's no different when it comes to estate planning. An individual who has been tasked with estate administration duties in British Columbia needs to have some knowledge of how RRSPs and RRIFs are taxed after a person's death. The values of both are usually included in the amount of assets of the deceased person and subject to taxation, but it's not always that simple.

Much depends upon who the beneficiary is of those RRSPs or RRIFs. Tax can be deferred if a beneficiary is a spouse or common law partner, a child or grandchild who is financially dependent, or a dependent child or grandchild who has a physical or mental infirmity. There are conditions that apply in these instances.

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