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Garton & Harris Wills and Estates Blog

Is it possible to act as power of attorney long distance?

As children grow up and build their own families and careers, it is not uncommon for some to set down roots in a different place than their parents. Parents, too, could choose to retire in a different location than their children reside; for example, perhaps they wish to retire to a quiet community on the coast of British Columbia, or somewhere else relaxing. While these are perfectly understandable decisions, they can become complicated when it comes to estate planning and power of attorney management.While it is possible to act as a caregiver from a distance, there are many challenges that can result from this endeavour.

The large majority of caregivers for elderly family members are carrying a full-time job. They may also have other dependants, like children, to care for. For this reason, acting as a power of attorney can be a big job - even when people reside close to one another. Adding distance can add to the stress, though it can be managed if the workload is shared among others. Trusted individuals, resources and support near the person who is being cared for can very much help these circumstances.

How to transfer bank accounts in estate administration

Individuals who act as executors have a tremendous amount of responsibility, and it's common to not quite know where to start. One of the first questions British Columbia executors may have in estate administration is how to transfer bank accounts in order to take control of the estate. While there are several ways this may happen, ultimately it comes down to providing adequate proof and paperwork to the bank. The bank must be able to confirm that the recipient has sufficient permissions and will also require proof that the original holder is in fact deceased.

One of the easiest ways to prepare for a smooth transition is for an individual to set up a Payable on Death (POD) or Transferable on Death (TOD) directly with the bank. If this is established, the bank will know to release funds to the person named once they receive confirmation of the person's death. This is usually the easiest way of transferring a bank account.

Are do-it-yourself wills worth the risk?

More than half of those living in British Columbia do not have an estate plan. It may be easy to list the reasons why, including the fear of facing their mortality, misconceptions about the purpose of an estate plan and, of course, the cost. Therefore, it might seem that those who choose do-it-yourself kits to create their wills have an advantage over those who die without an estate plan in place. However, some financial advisors strongly disagree.

A DIY will kit offers a will template for a nominal fee, and some websites even offer free downloads. The problem with a one-size-fits-all will is that every situation is unique. No template can cover every contingency or provide protections for special concerns that every family has. Additionally, DIY kits provide little to no assistance for those who may have questions. Even worse, many who use such kits may not even know what questions they should be asking.

What can go wrong when buying a business in Canada?

Buying a business is a major commitment in terms of the time, money and personal resources it takes to take on this type of transaction. As such, it is critical to prepare for the possible obstacles and complications that can arise.

If you are an entrepreneur wanting to buy an existing business, you should know what to watch out for before signing a purchase agreement and what could go wrong.

How to "stress test" a will throughout one's life

Some people may consider estate planning a "set it and forget it" exercise. However, without regular review, British Columbia estate planners may find that their wills become outdated, or they may miss key elements altogether. Regular stress tests, ideally done as a family with the support of a legal professional, can prevent mistakes or gaps in planning.

First, ensure important documents are in place, such as a will, business succession plan and deeds. Review these to ensure the plans initially put in place still make sense. Has the business changed, making the succession plan now impractical? Are the family's priorities and intention still reflected in these documents? These are important questions to ask during the regular review.

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.

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