Avoiding estate litigation in high-asset estates

Estate planning is an important life step for all Canadians, regardless of their economic standing. An estate plan, as some British Columbia residents are already aware, sets out guidelines for all late-life planning, including how assets will be disseminated, how minor children are to be cared for and much more. For the very rich, however, the question of asset division becomes extremely important, since the mortality of the estate holder will eventually trigger a transfer of assets, regardless whether a plan exists for its dissemination. In order to avoid costly estate litigation for the family, it is important to be prepared in advance. 

Updating estate plans regularly is good practice for anyone, but this is particularly important for the very wealthy. Typically, people with considerable assets often have business interests and holdings internationally, not just on Canadian soil, which can complicate estate planning. This is particularly true when considering the consistent influx of new laws and regulations that can influence how those funds are used and collected. 

Unfortunately, many of Canada's elite have neglected their estate planning. A recent study suggests that some nine out of 10 business leaders have out-of-date estate plans, some more than five years old. Not only does this open these individuals to missing out on opportunities to increase and maximize their wealth, but it also exposes them to their fortunes being divided in a way that does not match their wishes. 

Estate litigation typically occurs when there is a division between the perceived wishes of the estate holder and what is actually in their plan. Family members may become incensed and fight among themselves, and the whole endeavour can become costly and time-consuming for all involved. In British Columbia and elsewhere, avoiding such a conundrum can often be as easy as staying on top of the estate plan and ensuring it is up-to-date with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney. 

Source: Forbes, "Why Continuous Estate Planning Is Essential For The Rich And Super-Rich", Russ Alan Prince, Sept. 9, 2017

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