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Vancouver Wills and Estates Law Blog

Estate planning meetings with heirs and executors are a good idea

Many people are aware that they should speak with lawyers and financial planners when preparing their wills, but may be less ready to have a family meeting on the matter. While concerns about privacy and conflict are understandable, family meetings can play an extremely valuable role in clarifying estate plans and wishes for the future. Estate planners in British Columbia should try to have conversations with their executors and beneficiaries, preferably with all stakeholders together, in order to plan for a smoother transition.

Family meetings are becoming a recent trend for estate planners, and for good reason. Often, family members have observations and suggestions that can allow for a more sound and thorough plan. The ability to voice concerns and objections in person before the planner passes away and cannot speak for him or herself is another important benefit.

What to tell executors when estate planning with digital tools

As more and more of daily life goes digital, it is unsurprising that many people are choosing to store or back up estate planning documents online. While digital tools can be very helpful to both estate planners and their executors in British Columbia, there are additional considerations such as passwords which people should look into when storing things digitally. This also applies to assets that may be stored online, including cryptocurrency, websites or even email accounts.

There are many benefits to storing important information online. Instead of housing a document in a single central location, digital estate plans can be accessed and referenced anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection. Additionally, a digital copy can allow for a backup to be produced if needed.

Guardianships and other estate planning issues for parents

Giving birth can be an exciting time, but it also involves many difficult decisions and conversations. Estate planning is among the most challenging of these. New parents in British Columbia should agree on a plan for their child's future should something happen to them. This includes deciding on issues such as guardianships, life insurance and more.

The first thing new parents should do is establish documents clarifying their own life and death decisions, including naming a power of attorney. This will ensure someone else can access their assets to care for the child and can make health care decisions for the parent. Additionally, a guardian for the child should also be named. This is a person who will take over the primary custody and care of the child should the parent or parents no longer be able to do so.

Corporate executors may be an option for seniors without family

Most people pick a spouse or child to execute their will. But what options are available for British Columbia seniors without a close family member they trust as executor? Solo seniors are increasingly common throughout the country, and many are hiring alternative executors for their wills to save the hassle and stress of finding a family member or friend to do that job.

One of the options that may work for these individuals is a corporate executor. These are estate administration professionals that offer a variety of services, including funeral arrangements, settling taxes and managing property. Many major Canadian banks offer these services as part of their trust division, although knowledge of this is not widespread among the population.

Understanding estate litigation related to undue influence

In life, everyone is influenced by other people's opinions and circumstances. But when one particular individual seems to be overly involved in influencing an estate plan that is not hi or her own, other beneficiaries may bring estate litigation over the issue of undue influence. Under British Columbia estate law, a will drafted with undue influence can be voided by a court.

To clarify, not all influence is "undue" under estate law. Undue influence is only the most extreme kind of influence, which makes it impossible for a testator (the person writing the will) to make up his or her own mind. This typically involves some type of moral, physical or mental domination.

Executors with more professional support are often less stressed

Many people readily agree to execute a will when asked by a loved one, but the realities of this task might make some people think twice. Most estates take over a year or two to settle, with executors investing approximately 570 hours to complete the task. A recent survey suggests that professional help with can make a big difference in the stress level felt by those left with the responsibility to see the process through. These insights may help British Columbia executors prepare for the task ahead.

While executors have a variety of responsibilities, there are a few things that cause particular strain. To start, they need to locate and access all assets. Additionally, they must handle estate loans, calculate appropriate executor compensation. Beneficiary conflicts and managing priority claims on the estate are additional challenges that can be difficult for executors.

How hotchpot clause can prevent estate litigation over loans

There are many things that can complicate estate planning. One of these is outstanding loans to beneficiaries. Many British Columbia parents who have lent money to their children wish to write wills that take loans into consideration when dividing assets. However, any added complexity can lead to family drama and estate litigation, so it is important to work with a lawyer on drafting this correctly. Here are a few tips on making it work.

People can account for loans in their wills using a hotchpot clause. This requires all assets to be tallied up before division. Then, executors calculate each person's share of the total while deducting loans.

The obiligations and options of executors when dealing with debt

When executing a will, many people think primarily about distributing assets. However, paying off debts is another important job British Columbia executors hold. Bills that remain to be paid after a person dies should be covered by the estate before any distribution to beneficiaries. If the estate holds less assets than the debts, executors must negotiate with lenders.

Typically, creditors may only go after assets in an estate to collect on debts after a person died. That means a spouse or next of kin cannot be held responsible for outstanding amounts. The only exception to this is if another person co-signed on a specific debt or is a joint account holder.

Lack of planning can end in estate litigation

Most people create estate plans in hopes that people will be able to execute a will with relative ease and lack of conflict. Despite these good intentions, unclear plans or missing documents can often lead to messy estate litigation for British Columbia families. Aging individuals in the province should aim to prepare as much documentation as possible to help move this process along and prevent lengthy court proceedings.

The most well-known document that people prepare in the estate planning process is a will. This indicates what happens to a person's possessions after death. It may also hold information about guardianship of minor children and other key issues that must be resolved after a death.

What are the duties executors perform?

Many people who agree to execute an estate have limited information about what that process actually entails. Executors in British Columbia may have many questions, including what their duties are, how long settling a will can take and who can help along the way. While the responsibilities can be varied depending on the estate, there are a few basic tasks for which every executor is responsible.

The first of these is information gathering. Executors must collect information like bank statements, tax returns and insurance policies. Essentially, any document needed to define and distribute assets is the responsibility of the executor. They will also need to provide these documents as needed for the probate process.

Lunny Atmore

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