Estate planning is one of the most important steps you can take to provide for your family and loved ones prior to your death or other unexpected life event. Done correctly, estate planning can ensure a smooth transfer of your assets to your beneficiaries, saving your family money and heartache. Estate planning can also ensure that safeguards are instated so that beneficiaries are sufficiently mature to deal responsibly with the wealth they are receiving.
Proper estate planning is more than just the creation of a well drafted will. It involves:
At DNC Integra Lawyers, we do more than prepare wills. We help you PLAN your estate.
We make recommendations to ensure your assets pass to your chosen beneficiaries as efficiently and as inexpensively as possible, including the structure of your life insurance policies and RRSPs. At times, we may recommend that changing the structure of ownership of certain assets to reduce probate fees and income taxes.
If you die without a valid will, the distribution and handling of your estate is governed by pre-set, inflexible rules. Since you have not named an executor, someone must apply to the court to be appointed as the administrator of your estate. If no one applies an administrator may be appointed. The administrator may be required to post a bond to ensure your estate is administered and distributed according to the law. While the powers and duties of an administrator may be the same as those of an executor under a will, the process of administration where there is no will is more time consuming and costly.
The Will, Estates and Succession Act states how your estate will be distributed if you die without a valid will. Generally, your spouse and children are your primary beneficiaries, and in their absence your estate passes to your parents, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and then to your closest blood relatives. If you die leaving no next of kin, your estate passes to the provincial government.
If you have been in a “marriage-like” relationship with a person for two years or even if you are married and have a prenuptial agreement, your married or common-law spouse will be entitled to the majority of your estate when you die, regardless of whether this was your intention.
If you do not wish your estate to be distributed in the above fashion, you must make a will.