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Garton & Harris Wills and Estates Blog

What British Columbians should do when left out of wills

There may be nothing more disturbing or emotionally upsetting to someone than being left out of a loved one's will, other than the loved one's passing. For British Columbia residents who believe they've somehow been slighted in regard to wills, there is some recourse, but time is of the essence. In many cases, anyone who contests a will must show that there was either something wrong with the testator's mental capacity or that the testator was coerced when writing the will or that the will is altogether fraudulent.

Only family members have the right to contest a will and it doesn't always come without cost. If a testator talked with a loved one about being included in a will and was then left out, that person must try to write down as much as possible he or she can remember from the conversation(s) and try to estimate, based on the value of the estate, how much he or she believes is owed. The person may wish to consult with a lawyer to see what his or her options might be.

Wills aren't just for the well-to-do -- they're for everyone

Estate planning may often be driven less by what an individual has and more in regard for loved ones left behind. Some British Columbia residents may be under the assumption that because they don't have many assets they don't need to have wills. Professionals in estate planning say this isn't the case.

It is especially important for parents to have a will. Who will become the guardian of any minor children should something happen to the parents? These types of things are spelled out in wills. Although it is not essential that wills be prepared by lawyers, it is not a wise decision to go it alone since DIY wills can come with a host of issues. Lawyers' fees are insignificant when compared to costs of having to go to court to sort out homemade wills. 

Essential aspects that should be included in all wills

In the busy-ness of life, most people don't really think about their lives coming to an end, especially younger people. But when it comes to estate planning and wills, British Columbia residents really should pause and consider what it would mean to their loved ones if they died without leaving appropriate documents, especially if they have younger children. Creating a will and keeping it current really isn't all that daunting, especially when legal help is available. 

When writing a will, a power of attorney should always be included. This allows someone to act on behalf of the testator when he or she can no longer do so. One speaks to financial aspects of a person's life, and the other deals with personal issues like health care, while a will properly addresses what happens to the testator's estate upon death. There are essential components of a will that need to be addressed, such as who will care for any minor children in the event of the testator's death (usually a spouse if there is one) and who will be the executor of the estate.

Power of attorney: Common sense should prevail

Canadians who choose someone to act on their behalf financially when they can no longer do so need to make the choice wisely. In choosing a person to act on a power of attorney, British Columbia residents will want to make sure the person is trustworthy and has some financial common sense. Fraud is a reality in some situations, so it's important to give this power wisely.

When it comes to banking institutions, they want to know if a person acting on another's behalf has the authority to do so. Powers of attorney can actually be refused by banks if documents presented are out of date, aren't clear or don't conform to banking policies. So, these documents must be kept up to date. Experts say when it comes to a power of attorney, banks should operate on a balance of caution and common sense.

How to approach errors in wills in British Columbia

Even when people pay particular attention when writing estate planning documents, errors may occur. Wills have to be meticulously written and contain no errors, or their validity in British Columbia may come into question. When an executor is confronted with errors in a will, there are a few remedies for him or her. 

It's good to know that simple spelling errors won't make a will invalid. Very often, even when a property is incorrectly described, this isn't cause for alarm. A lot lies on what the testator intended when writing the will. When there are issues that aren't exactly clear, a court may review a will and try to establish the wishes of the testator and what he or she intended.

What happens when it's believed an executor is dishonest?

Most people go to great lengths to choose an executor they believe they can trust. When British Columbia residents draft their wills choosing an executor who is honest, reliable, astute and has some knowledge of finances is likely a top priority. But even when a testator chooses someone he or she believes can do the job appropriately, it may be that not every beneficiary might agree with the decision for whatever reasons.

In instances when one or more beneficiaries believe the executor of a will to be less than forthright, there are things that can be done, but only if there is some basis in fact. It may be that an executor may not be aware of the estate administration process and lacks the skills he or she needs. On the other hand, if an executor is acting criminally, that is another story.

I'm the executor of an estate: What does that mean?

When a loved one passes away, there can be a lot more to deal with than people initially realize. Beyond the emotional toll a loss takes on people, which can be overwhelming, there are also numerous financial and legal details to address.

If you are the executor or administrator of a person's estate, you will be tasked with the majority of this work. You are the person who will manage the probate process and follow through with your loved one's wishes, among other duties.

Power of attorney: It's a matter of trust

There are things people can do legally to make sure their financial affairs continue to be in order should they no longer be able to take care of things on their own. A power of attorney is a document that gives one or more people the green light to manage money and/or property on someone else's behalf. There are two types of powers of attorney in British Columbia and the rest of the country: general or enduring.

Since the person(s) named to act on a power of attorney document is given the green light to make many different decisions it is extremely important this person(s) be chosen with the utmost care. A testator must indicate if the person should have limited authority and to what extent. The more comprehensive a power of attorney document is, the better for all involved. One thing a person acting on a power of attorney can't do is make changes to an existing will or draft a will on behalf of someone.

Estate administration: Why it takes so long to get an inheritance

Getting an inheritance can take some time. One of the last jobs an executor is likely to do during estate administration in British Columbia is to disseminate inheritance funds. There are many things to be done with an estate before it can be closed, the first of which is taking inventory of the decedent's assets and debts. Estate planning documents must be located and must be in order before anything else can happen.

All the assets have to be evaluated, and things can get slowed down if the estate has to go through probate. Those assets have to pay any debts the decedent may have owed. These debts include such things as credit cards, outstanding bills, utilities, etc. A final tax must be filed, and taxes must be paid if the decedent owed them. 

What older residents should know about power of attorney

It's inevitable. Everyone -- if he or she is lucky -- gets old. And when thinking about the future, many British Columbia residents think about estate planning and that includes a power of attorney. Planning ahead for old age is one of the most important things a person can do and that means choosing someone to make crucial decisions when one can no longer do so oneself.

Seniors are some of the most vulnerable segments of society. Choosing an individual to help manage their affairs is not only important, but necessary. A person should never feel pressured by the one to whom they've granted the authority to look after his or her financial and personal needs. An individual needs to be capable mentally when signing a power of attorney for the document to be legal and valid.

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