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Garton & Harris Wills and Estates Blog

Are wills necessary if all assets have joint ownership?

There are many reasons people might put off estate planning. One common reason is that they believe that it is unnecessary since all assets are co-owned by a spouse or, less commonly, children. The thought process here is that if one dies, the other will simply inherit the assets. While this might seem straightforward, forgoing wills for joint ownership can have negative consequences for some British Columbia families.

The first reason why this approach can backfire is that it is very difficult to remember every asset. While major assets like a home or bank account are unlikely to fly under the radar, personal items like jewellery, a piece of art, or a family heirloom may not have a designated co-owner. This can lead to conflict or ill feelings, and the court may need to step in to designate ownership of items, which is usually not preferable.

How should individuals update their wills following a divorce?

When marriages end, there are many short-term and long-term legal, financial, and logistical considerations. One significant thing British Columbia divorcees should consider is how the divorce will impact their estate plans. Spouses have significant roles and entitlements when it comes to their partner's plans for incapacity or death. As such, it is important to revisit wills when a marriage is in the process of ending.

There are many documents in which a spouse may be named beneficiary. Individuals should review the names on bank accounts, insurance policies and trusts and make adjustments if needed. In addition, it is important to visit one's estate lawyer to review the power of attorney documents and the will to see if and where the spouse is explicitly named. While some aspects of plans may be automatically invalidated upon divorce, it's wise to avoid any outdated language in the official will to prevent plans being called into question.

Preventing conflict over wills with support and communication

Dealing with an estate after a family member passes away can be challenging and emotional, even if everyone is getting along. British Columbia families with pre-existing tension, complicated estates or mixed opinions are particularly at risk for conflict if wills are incomplete, confusing or unexpected. For that reason, it's a good idea for people to take a few careful steps, such as prioritizing legal advice and communicating plans to help prevent friction among their beneficiaries.

The first step in any estate planning process is finding a lawyer who can be trusted and making sure he or she understands the situation at hand. Financial advisors, wealth managers and accountants can also be helpful to consult throughout this process. A full financial overview should be conducted to ensure that no assets are left unaccounted for in estate plans. This process also helps to set the executor up for a successful estate administration by centralizing all the documents one will need in the process.

Besides wills, what estate planning documents should be prepared?

No one wants to leave his or her family in a challenging predicament when he or she passes away. Deciding where assets will go and how affairs will be handled after death is important for British Columbia adults. Just as important as making these decisions is documenting them in ways that are comprehensive, comprehensible and legally sound. This involves the drafting of documents, particularly wills.

A will is the most well-known estate planning document. It details how all assets and liabilities will be distributed after death. It also clarifies issues such as guardianship for dependant children. Finally, it explains who will be responsible for overseeing the distribution of assets according to what is documented. Without a will, an individual's estate will be divided according to provincial estate law.

Traits to look for when appointing estate decision-makers

When you pass away or if you become incapacitated, other people will make decisions on your behalf. Depending on the circumstances, a person could decide whether to sell your home, where you should receive end-of-life care or how to distribute your property to your loved ones.

These are not insignificant matters. They reflect your beliefs and values, and they can affect your well-being and your legacy. As such, choosing the right people to fill these roles will be critical.

4 costly missteps when buying a business

Starting a business from the ground up can be appealing, but it is not the only option. Buying an existing business could be an appealing opportunity, as well. It can be less uncertain than starting from scratch, and it could be easier to secure financing from investors and banks.

That said, there are risks that come with buying a business. You might already know that you should review a company’s history and seek legal guidance before signing anything. But if you are thinking of buying a business in British Columbia, you should also avoid these less-obvious but costly pitfalls.

Understanding the process of naming a power of attorney

Many people understand the importance of naming someone to take care of affairs after they pass away. But, what if an individual is still alive but unable to make decisions? In these cases, having a power of attorney named in accordance with British Columbia estate law can make a significant difference. Setting up a power of attorney can be quite easy, and is often done as part of the overall estate planning process.

Issues of incapacity, guardianship and powers of attorney often come up when someone visits a lawyer to draft a will or prepare a trust. Ideally, advice on all these issues comes from someone who is local, specialized in this field, and understands provincial estate law. The attorney will be able to explain the different types of powers of attorney, and the steps which can be taken to prevent abuse of this critical role later on.

4 things to leave out of a will if you want to prevent conflict

The death of a loved one can leave friends and family devastated. People can be struggling with grief and sadness; some may feel lost or alone. Adding a controversial or confusing will to the mix can make the situation even more upsetting because it can create a complicated legal environment that loved ones must navigate.

Jilted or angry parties could wind up contesting the will, which can create even more conflict and possible delays in the property distribution process. To prevent this, will-makers can leave the following out of their will:

Life events that mean it's time to take another look at wills

Most people understand the need to prepare legal documents to share end-of-life decisions, and to prepare for the distribution of their wealth after that. But, preparing a will is only the first step. British Columbia individuals and families should also take a look at wills and other plans to reaffirm details and make critical changes at key points in life.

Moments where a family structure changes are almost always good times to take a look at estate plans. For example, when a child is born, parents should designate guardianship. Upon marriage or divorce, confirming or creating stipulations around transfer of wealth to a spouse is important. Ideally, planners will do this in advance, even when just considering a divorce or marriage, to ensure every option remains available and paperwork can be completed.

How to prepare if you want to sell your business

Business owners across British Columbia are facing challenges with their business. Some are ready to close that chapter, while others are eager to start a new one. Whatever reason you may have for selling a business, you must plan accordingly.

Like any complicated transaction, selling a business takes considerable preparation. In some cases, business owners start planning years before they actually decide to sell. As such, the sooner you complete the following steps, the better.

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