Working with a Will – The most common problems that arise

At LegalWills.ca, we help you to write your Will. We do not get involved in the probate process at all. After you have died, your Will is probated, and your Executor has the responsibility to carry out the instructions in your Will. Sometimes this is where the problems start and estate disputes arise.

This is separate from a challenge to a Will. These are arguments arising while the estate is being managed by the Executor.

We recently spoke to Neil Milton of Ontario-Probate.ca. He specialized in probating of estates and has seen first hand the kinds of problems that can arise, and he also knows how to fix them.

He has kindly prepared this guest article, distilling his knowledge into the most common types of disputes that crop up while the Executor is trying to manage an estate.


Common estate disputes

While there are many causes of estate disputes, formal ‘will challenges’ are actually quite rare.

Common estate disputes
Credit: 123rf

There are a whole host of grievances that people have which usually fall in to one of the falling categories:

  • Debts incurred by the deceased before their death and not paid before death;
  • Gifts made by the deceased before their death which reduce the size of their estate;
  • Obligations created by statute which must be paid by the estate before any distribution is made to beneficiaries;
  • Failure of the estate trustee to act at all;
  • Improper actions by the estate trustee; and,
  • Allegations that the will itself should be invalid (a ‘will challenge’).

Disputes in these difference categories are often handled by the Courts very differently – some are relatively quick and inexpensive to pursue, others are very complex and expensive.  It is very important to get the advice of experience legal counsel to determine whether there is a case and if so how to pursue it.

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Writing your Will is the first step – how to help your Executor

Online Will writing services have changed the game for Will writing. The traditional barriers of cost and convenience no longer apply. There was a time when a simply Will would cost $600 and take two or three visits to a lawyer. These visits would have to be co-ordinated with a spouse and other family members. Then if the Will needed to be updated, the whole process would have to be endured again.

It is not surprise then that the vast majority of Canadian adults don’t have a Will.

With online Will writing services, the costs have been brought down dramatically, so a Will can now be written for as little as $39.95. And of course the time consuming appointments are a thing of the past – you can just put the kids to bed, put your feet up, pick up your iPad and write your Will.

Writing your Will with LegalWills.ca

We now expect more people to be writing their Will, simply because the process is so much more convenient and affordable. Most people who use our service wonder why they left it so long

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What happens to your debt when you die?

We are often asked this question from people who have been named as the Executor in a Will. They need to know if they are personally liable for any debts owed and what if there is not enough in the estate to cover them. What happens to your debt when you die?

Our friends at Ratehub have put together this article for us as a guest post.


What happens to your debt when you die?
Credit: 123rf

Debt is a part of life, and most Canadians are carrying around a significant amount, be it through credit cards, mortgages, and other lines of credit. With so many of us relying on credit, it’s no surprise that people often die with outstanding debts left unpaid.

It’s not always easy to talk about, but it’s important to make a plan for your debt ahead of time. Here’s a primer on what happens to debt when you die in Canada, which can help you get started.

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Estate planning in troubled times

Today’s blog post isn’t quite like anything we’ve done before. We felt, all things considered, that it was important to connect with you all on a more human level. Even though we’re still working away behind the scenes, it certainly isn’t ‘business as usual’ for us — or for anyone for that matter.

It’s hard to ignore that things aren’t really all that ‘normal’. A lot of us are feeling uneasy, scared even, about what the future could possibly have in store. Those are natural feelings to have about the situation, considering there’s no official end date in sight to this crisis state we’re in. 

There is one particular group who, despite their fear and worries, are being asked to step up. We’re talking about front line healthcare workers; the unsung heroes who are risking their lives to keep us out of harm’s way. The doctors, nurses, caregivers, and medical staff are working around the clock in our hospitals; putting the care of others ahead of their own physical and emotional well-being.

Our CTO, Henry Raud, has a daughter who is a Registered Nurse, working on the front lines to diagnose and care for COVID-19 patients. “Every day, I am concerned about my daughter contracting this virus, especially given that thousands of healthcare workers around the world have already been infected, and far too many of whom have died. As a father, I can’t help but feel concerned for my daughter’s safety. But more than anything, I am extremely proud of her for what she is doing to help people to get through this crisis. She absolutely loves what she is doing, despite all the risks. I can’t imagine any father being more proud than I am right now. And I am thankful for all of the other healthcare workers out there, risking their lives in the same way to help everyone that they can.”

Healthcare workers, just like Henry’s daughter, are keeping our families, friends, and communities safe. Even with a dangerously low supply of PPE and medical resources across the board, they continue to show up to do their part to help us all through this. They are protecting those nearest and dearest to us — and we wanted to do our part to help protect what’s nearest and dearest to them; their families, their friends, their assets. It really is the least we could do.

That is why we have decided to join our peers in the online estate planning community in offering free Wills and Power of Attorneys to our healthcare heroes. These healthcare heroes are being directed to get their affairs in order, while they continue to combat this disease. Helping facilitate the process for them is the best way that we can give back.

Our mandate has always been to make estate planning affordable and convenient, and it is our core belief that every adult should have a Will, Power of Attorney, and Living Will in place. We have worked for 20 years to remove the barriers to doing this. Especially now, the importance of being able to prepare these documents from the comfort of your home comes into sharp focus.

To start working on your Will please send an email to [email protected] from your healthcare work email account with your Name and Employee ID. There you will receive instructions on opening your account and preparing your Will.

Thank you! We truly appreciate everything that you do to keep us well!

Tim Hewson, CEO, LegalWills

Every document you need – how to write it, and how much it costs.

We live in unprecedented times. We have a COVID-19 global pandemic. People are being told to self-isolate. Others are being placed in quarantine.

It’s a worrying situation that does not appear to be abating.

It may be time to pause and to think about which documents you should have in place. If COVID-19 goes away, and we all hope it does, these documents are still important, and will last you for the rest of your life. Hopefully that will be another 50 years or more. The documents may need to be updated as your circumstances change, but it is important to have them in place.

In this article we will describe a complete list of documents that you should put in place. We will explain how to create one, how much it costs, and the legal formalities for each.

Estate planning documents
Your important documents
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The Canada Will Registry

We receive a call almost daily that sounds something like:

“My father has recently died. We know he had a Will, but we can’t find it. What can we do?”

The simple answer is, keep looking. If you die, and nobody can find your Will, the result is exactly the same as dying without a Will. It is called “dying intestate” and your estate will be distributed according to Provincial laws.

All of the time (and money) that you put into preparing your Will counts for nothing if nobody can find it.

Canada Will Registry

Will Registry in Canada

There are some confusing aspects of Will Registration to clear up first.

Every Will in Canada is registered after it is probated. Most Wills in Canada are probated, but this happens after you have died. If you are looking for the Will of somebody who has died, then you can usually find the Will with an application to the local probate courts.

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An estate plan for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – The Expat Will?

Disclaimer: This article is using the Duke and Duchess of Sussex as an illustration of a widely experienced situation. We are not suggesting that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle use our service; it would be up to them to decide whether the Expat Will service at LegalWills.ca is a good fit for them. We have certainly seen people with wealth, surrounded by a legal team, write their own Will, or even die without a Will. But each individual would need to decide the best approach for themselves. We refer to them as “Harry and Meghan” in the article, but it could be anybody.

Disclaimer 2: This article is not legal advice. It is presented as general information which may or may not apply to your own personal situation.

You have probably heard by now, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are moving from the UK to Canada. There is a chance that they may buy property in Canada. Prince Harry is a UK citizen. Meghan Markle is an American citizen. Their son, Archie, is probably dual citizen UK and US, now being raised in Canada.

What does this all mean for their estate planning?

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Canadian estate planning quiz


Explanation of the answers

This was a tough quiz covering estate planning in Canada. In this article we will provide you with some explanations for our answers.

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What should be included in a Will if you have children?

If you have young children, it is critical to write a Will. The challenge of course is that you are busy, and co-ordinating time with a lawyer, and perhaps your partner is very difficult. So difficult, that this is a task that is unlikely to make it to the top of the To Do list for today, or even this week.

Fortunately online services like the Will writing service at LegalWills.ca makes the process much most convenient and of course significantly more affordable than preparing a Will with a lawyer.

This article gives an overview of why a Will is critical, what you can do within a Will, specifically if you have children, and how you can prepare a Will in a cost effective and convenient way. We also discuss why and how you can update a Will if circumstances change.

Write a Will

What are the key elements in a Will?

You probably think of a Will as a document that describes the distribution of your assets (possessions) after you have passed away. This is, of course, a significant part of a Will, and one of the most important reasons for preparing one.

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Online Will service – 10 things that you can do at LegalWills.ca

LegalWills.ca features that are not supported by any other leading online Will service.

We often see reviews of online Will writing services. These reviews typically look as far as pricing, look and feel of the website, maybe support options. Unfortunately reviewers rarely take the Will service itself for a test drive. They don’t usually imagine different scenarios to determine how capable the Will service is in addressing different demands.

At LegalWills.ca we confidently regard our Will writing service as the most complete, and most flexible service of any online Will application.

Online Will service

In this article, we will take a quick look at just ten things that you can do at LegalWills.ca, things that are not supported by other leading online Will writing platforms.

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A Codicil – what it is, and why it is not the right solution.

Do you have a Will already? you just need to make a slight change to it? Perhaps you had a lawyer prepare your Will for several hundreds of dollars you don’t want that money to go to waste, but now you need to update it. After doing some research, you have determined that a codicil is what you need.

Let us explain exactly what a codicil is, and why it’s probably not the solution you are looking for.

Codicil to a Will

The origins of a Codicil

The first step in understanding the role of a codicil is to look at the history of the law related to Wills. In Canada, Estate planning laws were based on the UK Wills Act (except for the Province of Quebec). This law was written in 1837, and surprisingly, not too much has changed in the last 180 plus years.

In 1837, if you wanted to write a Will it would have looked like this

Handwritten Will

Imagine, a week after you had gone to the trouble of having your Will prepared, you wanted to make a change. The Will writer wouldn’t have wanted to rewrite the whole document, so the Wills Act made a provision for a codicil. It’s a “middle English” word meaning “little codex”, or according to Mirriam-Webster “a little bit of writing on a small piece of writing material, used to add to or change something about a larger piece of writing.”

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A Power of Attorney – The complete Canadian guide.

A Financial Power of Attorney appoints somebody to take care of your financial affairs while you are alive, but usually after you have lost capacity.

This document should not be confused with either a Last Will and Testament (or simply a “Will”) or a Living Will.

A Last Will and Testament makes key appointments and describes the distribution of your estate after you have died.

A Living Will is a document that is also in effect while you are alive, but deals only with your health condition and medical treatment. It usually combines the naming of a Healthcare Proxy with an expression of the type of treatment you wish to receive through an Advance Directive.

Together, these three documents make up a complete Estate Plan in Canada.

Power of Attorney
credit: 123rf

What types of Power of Attorney are there?

The first classification is the Power of Attorney that directs your medical needs; a Healthcare Power of Attorney. Also known as a Healthcare proxy. In this document, you name a person to make medical decisions on your behalf. Most people when they talk about a Power of Attorney are not meaning a Healthcare document.

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The cost of a Will in Canada 2020 – explained.

Two of the most frequently asked questions we receive at LegalWills.ca are:

  1. How come your Wills are so cheap?
  2. Why are your Wills so expensive?

In this article, we will discuss the cost of a Will. We will explain the different ways to prepare a Will, why each approach costs what it does, what you get and don’t get when preparing a Will in a certain way. Finally, we will explain what goes into our pricing of $39.95 for our Will service.

Executive summary of this article

  • A Last Will and Testament is a 4-6 page document that allows you to make key appointments, and describes the distribution of your assets (bank accounts, property etc) after you have died.
  • There are broadly speaking 3 ways to make a Will; i) visit an estate planning lawyer, ii) attempt to write your own using a do-it-yourself Will kit or blank sheet of paper and iii) use interactive software that guides you through the process.
  • Depending on the approach you take, this document can cost you absolutely nothing, or over $1,000. But each approach is a good fit for certain situations, and each has certain pros and cons which we explain in the article.
  • Our Will service costs $39.95. This covers our costs of customer support, legal team, software development, advertising. We do not sell your data or sell advertising to you. Our costs are covered by the price we charge for our Will service.

What exactly is a Last Will and Testament?

Cost of a Will
source: 123rf
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Frequently Asked Questions: Make a Will Week & Month

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve heard of Make a Will Week or Make a Will Month. But what actually is Make a Will Week? Why did it begin? What’s the point and what does it mean for you? Several Provinces recognize their own specific week or month annually to promote the same message: you need to make your Will. In the following article, we’ll go into why this is so important and answer several of the questions that you may have on Make a Will Week and Make a Will Month.

Make a Will Week & Make a Will Month | FAQ

Make a Will Week and Make a Will Month are annual awareness campaigns, scheduled by their respective provinces, with the goal of informing and educating adults on the need for a Will.

“Determining how your wishes are expressed is a critical decision that impacts families and loved ones”, stated Lynne Vicars, President of the Ontario Bar Association – the originators of Ontario’s Make a Will Month.

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The Ultimate Guide to Preparing a Will – 2020

Introduction to Preparing a Will

Everybody should have a Will. Not making a Will is unfair to those you leave behind. Even if your plans for estate distribution are simple and you do not have many assets, it is still much easier for the people that you leave behind to work with a Will than to resolve the estate of a person who has died intestate (without a Will). If you do not feel that you have significant assets now, remember that your Will only comes into effect when you die, not now, and you cannot possibly predict how large your estate will be when your Will is required. Preparing a Will is one of the most important tasks you can undertake if you have loved ones. Sadly, most of us put it off until it is too late.

By law, any competent adult can make their own legal Will; the law does not require you to have an attorney or a lawyer, to do this. A Will does not need to be a complicated document; it simply has to clearly state your wishes for the distribution of your estate.

Guide to Preparing a Will

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Probate in Canada – What it is, what it costs, how to reduce fees.

Must my Will go through probate?

To understand whether or not your Will needs to go through the probate process, you have to understand what happens after you have died.

Hopefully you have written a Last Will and Testament.

In your Will you name an Executor. This is the person that you entrust to gather and secure your assets. Your Executor then has to distribute the assets according to the instructions in your Will.

The Executor must collect up everything you own, keep it safe and secure until everything has been collected, and then pass these possessions and financial assets to your beneficiaries.

Let us imagine a scenario.

Imagine your Executor going to your bank and presenting them with the Will. They explain to the bank that you have died and they show your Will to the cashier. The Will names your Executor. The person you have named shows their ID and they request the contents of the bank account. This person could even be one of your own children. Continue reading

Making a Will in Canada – the 2020 Complete Guide to your Options

What is the purpose of a Will?

Your Last Will and Testament allows you to speak after you have passed away. It does absolutely nothing and has no powers whatsoever all the time you are alive. But as soon as you die your Will has two key functions: it allows you to make key appointments and it allows you to describe the distribution of your assets. These assets include money, possessions, houses, investments, everything that you own. Making a Will is one of the most important responsibilities of every adult, and it should not be put off until a distant day in the future when you are “old”.

You should not think of making a Will as a once-in-a-lifetime event. You should always have a Will in place that reflects your current situation. You should write your first Will as soon as you are an adult, and then update it throughout your life as your circumstances change.

 

Your Key Appointments

By Making a Will you can make two key appointments.

Your Executor

This is the person you entrust to carry out the instructions in your Will. They have the responsibility to arrange your funeral, gather and secure your assets, and then distribute them according to the instructions in the Will. It is a very important appointment. Continue reading

Mirror Will – What is it? When should I use it? Is it right for me?

What is a Mirror Will?

A Mirror Will is actually two Wills, usually created by partners or married couples. The two Wills typically name each partner as the main beneficiary of the other partner’s estate. There may be other specific gifts within the Will, such as gifts to charities, but the two Wills look identical to each other, except that typically, the name of the main beneficiary is the partner of each testator.

Person A leaves everything to Person B. Person B leaves everything to Person A.

Then for the two Wills to be true mirror Wills, each Will describes an identical alternate plan in the event that both partners are involved in a common accident. Often this is that the entire estate is then distributed to the children.

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Setting up a Pet Trust: who cares for your pet after you are gone?

According to a recent survey conducted by BMO Bank of Montreal, 89 percent of Canadians consider their pets to be a member of their family. It stands to reason then that most people would want to ensure that somebody looks after their pet after they are gone. But hardly any Canadians have set up a pet trust to ensure that their pet receives proper care after they are gone.

If you make no provision for your pet as part of your estate plan, your dog or cat could potentially end up at the humane society. In 2015 82,000 cats and 35,000 dogs were taken into Canadian shelters, of which 48 per cent of dogs and 57 per cent of cats were adopted.

A Pet trust is not just for the wealthy

Whenever there is mention of a pet trust in the news, it is usually because of an extreme bequest, or staggering wealth of the pet owner. We saw is with Leona Helmsley who in 2008 left $12 Million to her pet Maltese. Continue reading

The specific grounds to challenge a Will in Canada

How to Contest or Challenge a Will

For many of us the loss of a family member is a very upsetting and stressful time, and we are not always thinking clearly during this emotional state. As a result, there are often times when an estate is distributed but some beneficiaries feel that it has not been done in accordance with the Will or that they have still missed out in some way. This isn’t uncommon and as any estate lawyer will tell you, a large part of their work involves resolving estate disputes between family members and other beneficiaries.

But if you are tempted to challenge a Will, be aware that there are specific reasons why you can challenge a Will. Although you may feel cheated, this may not alone be sufficient grounds for contesting a Will.

Some General Considerations

If you believe that you have not received a sufficient benefit under a Will and you fit certain criteria, you may be able to challenge a Will. Contesting a Will means applying to the court to have the Will, or parts of the Will, deemed invalid. While there may be a good reason you were left out, there may also be other possibilities.

Since contesting a Will is expensive and time-consuming, it is a good idea to get legal advice before you proceed. In addition, contesting a Will requires formal steps and procedures, and will only be successful if you can provide evidence to support your claim. Because the maker of the Will is deceased, any statements that you allege the deceased said, must be corroborated or confirmed by a witness. Depending on the jurisdiction, you may have to go to mediation and try to resolve the issues.  If the case is not settled at mediation, it will then go to trial.
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