The 7 Biggest Estate Planning Blunders to Avoid

1. Never Finding Any Time

This is the first and biggest mistake people make — they never do any estate planning. Why does this happen? Are we really too busy or is it that we just don’t know how to get started? For most people, it’s trying to find all the answers by themselves. That’s impossible. You need to find out who can help you find the answers you need.

2. Not Having Any Plan

Many people leave things to chance because they think they’re not rich. It’s a mistake thinking the people you leave behind will automatically manage and figure things out. In every family there are differences of opinion concerning money.

Problems can occur whenever someone else must try to interpret what you want done.

If you don’t bother making an estate plan, the government will provide one by default. Their idea of what happens to your money leaves no room for your personal wishes, flexibility, or tax savings.

Your personal estate plan lets you decide what happens to your money and everything else that is valuable to you. You need to learn how to give away all your stuff to keep the government rules from doing it for you.

3. Paying Way Too Much Tax

The government has ways to make you pay taxes even after you’re gone. If you have a vacation property, a business, substantial investments, or even a registered pension plan, don’t think you can give these away tax-free.

An estate plan can give away your property and reduce, or altogether eliminate, taxes. Think how grateful your beneficiaries will be.

4. Not Making Your Will

If you fail to make a will, the government writes one for you. You have no say about who is in charge of your estate, who gets a share of your money, or how and when it is distributed. You also lose the chance to use any tax-reduction strategies.

Yet people die all the time without having a will. Why? Often they have no idea what is involved in making a will or why it’s the cornerstone to every estate plan.

Wills are legal documents that must pass certain legal tests. Judges are often called upon to interpret or declare homemade wills invalid. Don’t try to make a will by yourself. Invest in a professionally prepared will to get peace of mind. Start your research by finding the right advisor.

5. Becoming a Target of Financial Abuse

Who can protect you and your money if you no longer can? Don’t think that your family, spouse, or children will automatically have access to your bank accounts to pay your bills.

Your estate plan should include power of attorney documents. You sign these written legal documents to designate someone as your agent to make financial and/or health decisions for you. You can choose who will control your money and make health-care decisions when you no longer can.

6. Not Dealing with Insurance, Business, and Charities

Missing an opportunity to deal with these items in an estate plan can be devastating.

There are certain tax-free advantages with insurance or a qualified incorporated business. Your estate plan should always consider these items to capitalize on the benefits.

Donating to charity, religious, or public causes as part of your estate plan can reduce your income tax liabilities. Giving to charity can be rewarding in more ways than one.

7. Not Updating Your Plan

No estate plan will work if it is out of date. Learn why updates are necessary when changes occur, including:

• a change in your personal relationships (marriage or divorce)

• new children, grandchildren, or stepchildren

• changes in your legal and moral obligations

• moving to another province, state or country

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, and C.S.) is an Ontario lawyer, nationally recognized author and estate expert. He is a Toronto based Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and is the author of seven estate books. © 2013

Are You Sure You’ll Be Around in September?

Yesterday, Dolores, an elderly client, said, “I was getting nervous. I’ve been to 4 funerals in 4 months. I’ve met people at the funerals who told me they still have not made their will. That’s why I am here today to get my will updated.”

“You have probably been referring to fifty percent of the population. That’s the usual percentage of the population without a will,” I said.

“How is that possible, Ed? Why would people not want to make a will?”

My next answer was short, sweet and a bit sarcastic.

“Because they think they’ll be around forever.”

Dolores replied, “Well they can’t really believe that. Not when they’re going to as many funerals as I am.”

I tried to be more serious as she wanted an answer. She wanted to give her friends a reason to make their wills.

I said, “Perhaps your friends don’t know what happens to a loved one when someone dies without a will.”

Why You Need Estate Planning

I told Delores: “Estate planning is what you do for the people you care about. If you don’t have a will, you don’t know how much hardship and heartache you leave behind.”

“What does that mean,” she asked?

You don’t know how difficult it is to handle an estate if there is no will.

First, you have no one in charge. There is no one who can come forward to deal with legal matters. Who deals with the emergency services, police, hospital, coroner’s office or funeral directors?

Sure, if you have next of kin they might step forward to help. What if they are not nearby? They can try as best they can to manage without directions. But what if there is a disagreement among your relatives. What happens if there is no executor or estate trustee to make important decisions?

Who Decides These Estate Issues?

1. What happens to the house that you were living in that is now empty?

2. Who pays your ongoing expenses?

3. Who can arrange insurance to protect property from vandalism or fire?

4. Who takes care of your pets?

5. Who will pick up your children from day care?

6. Who is authorized to speak to your employer regarding your benefits?

7. Who gets access to your bank accounts to pay bills?

8. Who collects and secures your car and valuables?

9. Will your brother who you’ve not spoken to in 25 years inherit your life savings?

10. Who pays your income tax bill?

Remember, your power of attorney ceases to be valid upon your death.

Your last will only becomes effective upon your passing.

That’s when you’re estate trustee or executor becomes entitled to act as your legal representative.

It’s summer. You have longer days and more sunshine.

Before you start your summer vacation, review your will.

If you have not got around to making a will, download my free guide: Estate Planning: 7 Keys to Success. It will help you understand the simple steps to get started.

Have a happy and safe summer. Hope to see you in September.

Read my other posts on making a will here:

Making Your Will – The 12 Critical Steps

Wills: Should You Do It Yourself?

About Edward Olkovich

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, C.S.) is a nationally recognized author and estate expert. He is a Toronto estate lawyer and Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and is the author of Executor Kung Fu. Visit his website, mrwills.com for more free valuable information.

© Edward Olkovich 2013

Honey, Is It Truly only Your Money?

I cringed reading a recent batch of newspaper advice columns. Someone wrote this: “I want to divide my estate unequally between my successful and unsuccessful children. Can I do it?”

The “advice expert’s” answer was short and sweet. She said, “It’s your money. You can do whatever you want with it!”

I think this is a load of rubbish. It comes from people who don’t know better, but have opinions about everything.

When you deal with money in your estate, you need to know the law. Technically, the newspaper answer is correct about adult independent children.

But let me tell you why it is not good advice. Despite what you may think, there are legal, moral and contractual ties that can restrict what you do with your money. And if you have a child with special needs, well, that is entirely another story.

Parents often feel that the unsuccessful child needs an extra portion. “More porridge, if you please.” It compensates Little Annie for not being as productive, as fortunate financially, as educated, or as accomplished, blah-blah. These are excuses and rationalizations.

I have no problems if you treat children unequally while you are alive.

But you must explain to your family why:

 • Felicia is getting the restaurant,

• Billie gets the farm, and

• Jodie gets the summer home/cottage.

However, most parents do not want to do that. They probably have very good reasons. They can start a squabble that will tear the family apart.

So why do most caring parents try to treat children unequally in their wills? Because they think they can get away with it, and they get bad advice.

I tell clients to treat the children unequally while they are alive. That way you can explain it to your other beneficiaries.

You don’t want your children to learn about the unequal treatment for the first time in a lawyer’s office. Imagine their shock when a lawyer gives them the will. They learn they were being punished for:

• being successful,

• staying married,

• having multiple homes,

• paying off mortgages, or

• saving and investing money.

No one can explain why you treated them this way once you are gone. This is a question no one can answer. It causes heartache. It is cruel because no one can satisfactorily explain this to your children.

Why did you punish them in this way? A child asks, “What did I do to deserve a smaller portion than my sister? Why was I being punished for being successful?”

There is no one to answer.

If you give unequal shares in your will, make sure you tell your children while you’re alive. Tell them before you make the will. It will save you some money. You won’t go back to a lawyer to change your will.

What About Married and Common Law Spouses?

It’s a farce to think you have the freedom to ignore a married or common law spouse. These people are entitled to maintain the standard of living they had with you while you lived together. In some cases, they may be entitled to a better standard of living, especially if your middle name was Scrooge.

You need to recognize that you live in a village of entitlement.

Everyone wants or has claims to a slice of your estate. You must consider everyone, from the tax department to the person who drives you to medical appointments.

You can’t do whatever you want with your money. Is that clear by now?

If you do, you run the risk of these people hiring lawyers after you are gone. They can sue your estate. You must then satisfy all legal and moral claims against your estate.

Otherwise, your executors can spend years in court. Your beneficiaries and executors hire lawyers. Your estate gets frozen until all the disputes are resolved. We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars and years in court.

Did I get your attention?

Read my free guide, Estate Planning – 7 Keys to Success.

About Edward Olkovich

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, C.S.) is a nationally recognized author and estate expert. He is a Toronto estate lawyer and Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and is the author of Executor Kung Fu. Visit his website, mrwills.com for more free valuable information.

© Edward Olkovich 2013

 

 

 

 

 

What Executors Can Do To Be Happy

Executor worries don’t have to keep you up at night. Read this so you can avoid the potential for trouble. Don’t worry. Be happy.

You don’t want to find yourself trapped in a nasty family battle or courtroom saga. Estate problems can drive you crazy for years. Be prepared to decline to act as executor to avoid these 10 executor worries.

I’ll explain why estate executors should not get involved with these problems. Avoid them so you won’t have to medicate yourself.

Executor Problems to Avoid

You can be personally on the hook for failing to properly deal with these types of situations. In most cases, you’ll need expert and experienced estate advice. Don’t start handling any of these estate situations without knowing the risks and complications:

1. The estate is broke

Do the math. Check if the bills you must pay exceed the estate’s assets. If that is the case, consider whether you should walk away. Leave the headache for another executor.

2. Failing to fulfill real estate responsibilities

Selling real estate means you take on responsibilities. Fires, floods and falling prices are some things that can devastate property values. Selling real estate can consume a great deal of your time and carries risks.

3. Taking risks with complex investments and commercial properties

Does the estate include unusual investments or commercial real estate? A bigger portfolio means a larger risk and greater caution.

4. Wasting time with foreign assets

Estate rules in another legal jurisdiction can be strange and frustrating. Winding up a foreign estate can often be slow. Can you fritter away time trying to sell Florida estate property?

5. Business battles and buy/sell agreement deadlines

Does the estate include an active business with partners or a corporation with shareholders? If you must deal with buy/sell agreements, these can add new layers of stress and liability. Deadlines in the agreement may force you to rely on additional experts and to make timely decisions.

6. Your age and health considerations

Does your age or health prevent you from completing your tasks over the next 12 to 18 months? Don’t start a job if you think you can’t finish.

7. Not protecting yourself from difficult beneficiaries

Are there signs that the beneficiaries are going to stalk you? Will they challenge everything you do? How do you protect yourself from beneficiaries who bombard you with emails and phone calls? They will want you to report on what you do daily.

8. Contested wills

You may think you have a duty to probate the will, but someone can still contest it. If there is a fight, will you be able to pay your lawyer?

9. Too much to handle

Is the estate too large or too much for you to handle? Check if the will lets you hire professionals to help you with your duties.

10. Long term trusts

Does the will require you to manage a trust on a long-term basis until the twins graduate? These are factors you must consider before saying “yes.”

If you have an urgent legal matter, please seek advice from an experienced estate lawyer. If you need more information on executor work, try reading Executor Kung Fu.

Read a sample chapter.

What others have said about the book:

“Easy to read and use.”

– Milton Zwicker, Lawyer and Author

About Edward Olkovich

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, C.S.) is a nationally recognized author and estate expert. He is a Toronto estate lawyer and Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and is the author of Executor Kung Fu. Visit his website, mrwills.com, for more free valuable information.

© Edward Olkovich 2013

Making Wills – You Don’t Want to Make These Costly Mistakes

Once upon a time, making a will was easy. It was also easy to make expensive mistakes. This can happen if you don’t get the expert help you need. When it comes to blended families, the danger of making multiple mistakes increases.

I’ll tell you the shocking story of a stepson who arranged a will for his mother. The mother’s will cut out her second husband from her estate. You don’t want to repeat this family’s blunders when you sign a will in a hospital.

Frank Wiseman was married to Lilly for over 35 years. Lilly signed a will in the hospital on October 15, 2008 while having chemotherapy. She died shortly thereafter on November 12. Lilly disinherited her husband. Frank contested the will in court.

At a trial four years later, the British Columbia court reviewed the following information:

• the evidence of the mother’s capacity from doctors,

• the undue influence of her sons from her first husband, and

• the mistakes made by the notary who made the will.

The entire case appears as Wiseman v. Perrey 2012 BCSC 1681 (CanLII). I will refer to some important parts of the decision. All square brackets in the quotes refer to paragraph references.

Lilly was receiving chemotherapy. She was treated by Dr. Martin, who noted:

…At times over the past 3 weeks, Mrs. Wiseman has been confused due to the high dose steroid. Monday, Oct. 27, she was disoriented as she was hypoxic and ill. Today she is oriented X3, understands her diagnosis & prognosis, but occasionally tangential about the history of her assets & the merging of the two families…[9]

Dr. Martin was not an expert in cognitive assessments. Dr. Manjunath made a psychiatric competency assessment of Ms. Wiseman and his report noted:

…Progress notes indicate that she [Ms. Wiseman] had developed psychological symptoms and symptoms of psychosis even prior to the starting of the steroids. Hence, I conclude that she has been likely temporarily noncompetent some time soon after the onset of chemotherapy until a couple of days ago…[12]

… “it is likely that she had significant memory impairment and disorientation in the last month or so”. …Ms. Wiseman had “some confusing thoughts that she might have made a will in the last week or two” but that she was “not very clear about this”. [105]

A notary did the will

Into this confused state entered Roy, a notary public. He prepared a Will, a Power of Attorney and a transfer of property for Ms. Wiseman. The evidence was that the son gave instructions to the notary for their mother. The mother never reviewed drafts before she signed them. The will allowed Frank to live in Lilly’s half of the house while he was alive. It also included this strange disinheritance clause:

…6.2: Disinheritance

I have intentionally omitted to provide for my husband Frank, as he and I maintain our assets separately in order that our respective children may inherit, nor for any of my other heirs, or persons claiming to be my heirs, whether or not known to me, living at the date of my death. I HAVE PURPOSELY made no provision for any other person whether claiming to be a beneficiary of mine or not. IN THE EVENT any undesignated person becomes entitled to a share in my Estate, I leave the sum of ONE ($1.00) DOLLAR as full and final satisfaction of that entitlement. [50]

The notary told the court that he did not know that Lilly had been married for over 35 years. He did not see Lilly read the will over before she signed it.

The notary did not take the necessary steps to protect the will. The circumstances surrounding the will suggested that Ms. Wiseman did not have knowledge or approve the will contents. This placed the burden on the executors of her estate to satisfy the court their mother had testamentary capacity.

Ms. Wiseman’s sons from her prior marriage had vested interest in the estate. They communicated instructions to Roy. The notary failed to ask Ms. Wiseman:

• what her wishes were;

• assess her capacity or perform a mini mental state exam;

• consult with her attending doctors;

• did not see or hear her read the will;

• have her explain back the will’s provision to him;

• did not know the total value of the estate;

• could not explain why the will did not provide for a husband of 37 years.

The court explained Roy had a duty to prove Ms. Wiseman had testamentary capacity to make a will.

I’ll paraphrase this part to help you understand what Roy was supposed to do:

(a) it is not enough that a client superficially appears normal and can answer simple questions

(b) if the client is weak and ill and particularly if they are changing an existing will, a professional has a heavier duty

(c) it is not enough to ask routine questions and record simple answers to prepare a will

(d) the lawyer must ensure true testamentary capacity exists, that the instructions are freely given, and that the effect of the will is understood. [112]

Ms. Wiseman also signed transfers of property into joint ownership and a power of attorney. Can you guess what the judge said about them and the mother’s will? My next post will give you all the answers.

Bear this in mind if you have no will. The court issued a decision on December 3, 2012. The family spent four years paying their lawyers.

See my previous blog post:

When Wills Go Sour – Who Wins and Loses?

About Edward Olkovich

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, C.S.) is a nationally recognized author and estate expert. He is a Toronto estate lawyer and Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and is the author of Executor Kung Fu. Visit his website, mrwills.com, for more free valuable information.

© Edward Olkovich 2013

Executors: Can They Refuse to Handle Your Estate?

Ken Gallagher, the Toronto Star ethics columnist, answers this question in an article. The short answer is yes. No one can force you to act as executor. You may, however, want to handle an estate, especially if you are a beneficiary. You then have a vested interest in being efficient and economical.

What should readers take away from the article? Gallagher suggests the parents should show their children their will. This is not my typical advice to my clients as an estate lawyer. However, there are exceptions to every rule. That’s why estate planning is personal and no one size fits all solution exists.

Probate makes wills public

Your will is private and confidential until it is probated. Executors file wills with a probate, surrogate or estate court. Then, and only then, is it accessible to the public. You may provide a summary of its contents to your executor but it is not mandatory. However, you should be flexible depending on the factors I list below.

There are plenty of reasons why parents would not want to disclose what’s in their will. There are also reasons why your child as executor wants to know what is in your will.

In my experience, estate planning mistakes are quite common. Mistakes happen because you get bad advice or no advice at all. That is why you need to have your will reviewed. Your executor is not capable of doing this.

Executors’ duties are confusing

I once had a mother call me about her daughter, Helen, who was her executor. Helen told her mother that she was now in charge as executor. The mother could not sell her property without Helen’s consent. The mother wanted to know if this was true.

“No,” I said, “your will does not become effective until you pass away. Your daughter Helen, as executor, has no authority or control until then. You can always change your will and your executor while you are capable. You do not need Helen’s permission nor does she need to sign anything.”

If you revise your estate plan or will, you may have to disclose changes. Beware! You run the risk of starting a family discussion which can escalate into family arguments.

Your age, health and dependency can make you vulnerable to family pressures. These can be difficult to ignore. Will you be prepared to deal with this type of psychological stress?

Disclosure raises the issue of your estate planning priorities. Consider these three factors before revealing what is in your will.

1. Your needs – based on your age, spousal status and health

2. Your beneficiaries – how many children/beneficiaries do you have and how you treat them in your will?

3. Your estate – the type of estate assets you have

Let’s look at this last one in more detail which is less complicated.

What are estate executors required to do?

Administering an estate can involve special consideration. You need to prepare your executor for special duties.

Consider this especially if you are dealing with any of these in your will:

• business interests, farm or family business

• burdens of rental properties

• succession of a vacation or cottage property

• special-needs beneficiaries

• maintaining trusts

• substantial debts

• special collections like art

• foreign assets

• pets

These items/beneficiaries require greater time commitments and expertise from executors. They will need to obtain professional advice. You may wish to introduce your executor to your dream team of professional advisors before the time comes.

You can recommend you’re executor hire these professionals. However, this is not legally binding on your executor.

No school for executors existed until now

Most executors do not have any experience.

They may be familiar with your family business or property management but acting as executor involves different duties.

You or your executor can learn about executor duties. I designed ExecutorSchool.com for those without any legal background.

See my related blog post:

About Edward Olkovich

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, C.S.) is a nationally recognized author and estate expert. He is a Toronto estate lawyer and Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and is the author of Executor Kung Fu. Visit his website, mrwills.com, for more free valuable information.

© Edward Olkovich 2013

 

 

 

Estate Planning Resolutions – 3 Easy Estate Tips to Use Before Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday is coming, and I am making plans already. My lists include who is coming over to watch the game, what to eat and drink. I’m digging up recipes for dips, wings and chili. I have time to stock up on exotic beers. And, oh, some low carb beers to help keep some resolutions.

Are you still trying to keep your resolutions? If you wanted to create an estate plan there’s still time. I’ll give you three tips to get it done before the big game.

To make it easier, I have a bonus to help. It’s a free ebook I wrote called “Are You Risking Your Family’s Future?” It will score a touchdown for your family. You have no obligations.

Three tips to make your estate plan resolutions

It’s not too late to complete your estate planning resolutions. You have three weeks before the game. That is enough time to do it.

1. Set a date.

Having a target to sign estate planning documents helps you follow through on resolutions. You need to find the right lawyer to give you two appointments. The first will be to review your needs and legal requirements. The second date is to sign your documents before February’s game.

Everyone doing estate planning can benefit from proper legal advice. If you are so sure your online forms will work, have a lawyer check them. Make sure you use lawyers who spend at least 25% of their time making wills.

2. Do something every day.

Start the conversation with your family over coffee. Read my free estate planning guide, Estate Planning: 7 Keys to Success. It’s a plain language how to guide.

Meeting with a lawyer can be stressful. Find out if you will be charged by a block fee or by time. Either way, make sure you come prepared. Make a list of your questions. This ensures you get the most from your meeting.

3. Plan a reward.

Estate planning is the right thing to do for your loved ones. Having powers of attorney can also protect you and your money. So celebrate super bowl style with a party. It does not have to be more expensive than having jumbo shrimp or real crab in the dip. Promise yourself something for a job well done.

Include Wills and Powers of Attorney in your plan

Your Estate Plan has a variety of tools, including these three documents:

1) Will to name executors to distribute your property.

2) Power of Attorney for your financial affairs.

3) Power of Attorney for health-care decisions.

Let’s look at the essential documents you’ll need:

 1. Will

 • Names an executor and backup executor

 • Names beneficiaries of gifts and allows for tax planning

 • Appoints trustee to hold gifts in trust

 • Appoints guardians to care for underage children

 2. Power of Attorney for Property or Finances

 • Names someone as a financial attorney

 • Specifies conditions and/or restrictions on your attorney

 • Is effective while you are alive

 • Usually states it is valid if you are incapable (durable)

 3. Power of Attorney for Personal or Medical Care

 • Also called health or medical care attorney proxies

 • Authorizes health and personal-care decision makers

 • May include attachments regarding your medical directives or treatment optionsŸ

 • Valid only if you cannot make your own decisions

Don`t fumble the ball. Get my free super bowl special “Are You Risking Your Family’s Future?” Discover the secret winning moves instantly by reading my free ebook. Please let me know if you find it helpful.

See my related posts and FAQs:

 • Target Your Estate Planning Resolutions

 • Estate Planning Extra to Consider

 • Ontario Estate Planning FAQs

About Edward Olkovich

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, C.S.) is a nationally recognized author and estate expert. He is a Toronto estate lawyer and Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and is the author of Executor Kung Fu. Visit his website, mrwills.com, for more free valuable information.

© Edward Olkovich 2013

 

New Year’s Resolutions to Protect Your Money and Family

Here are three resolutions that you can make for the New Year. Use them and my tips to protect your money and your family. Then you can pop that cork. Celebrate your good start to the New Year.

1. Resolve to Have a Plan to Save Taxes

How do you make sure you don’t pay more taxes than you should? By having a tax-planned and professionally prepared will.

Wills, after all, control the taxes that you will pay when you transfer your wealth. If you are like most Canadians, your largest tax bill is your terminal or final tax return.

In Canada, we have no estate tax, but our neighbors to the south worry about estate taxes. In Canada, the government deems that you sold your capital property on your death. In other words, all the capital gains become taxable on the final return. That final return is the one your executor files for you.

The tax rules treat certain assets as income. The tax liability on stocks or investment properties – not your principal residence – can cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

What is the best way to minimize your tax bite? Consult a professional to help with your tax and estate planning. Your advisor can then minimize the tax bite and help your arrange your affairs.

Merely correctly owning your assets can defer capital gains and avoid probate taxes.

Here is another tip on registered plans like RSPs and RIFs. The value of the plan is included as income for your tax return on the year of death. There are exceptions that save you almost 50% of your plan. Make the beneficiary a qualifying spouse, dependent child or grandchild.

Ensuring you have the correct beneficiaries on registered plans protects money and benefits your family.

All tax advice should come from qualified advisors. But keep reading to see why saving taxes should not be your only motivation.

2. Resolve to prevent arguments over your money

When an estate dispute occurs, everyone has to hire a lawyer. Your family can dump what seemed like truckloads of money onto lawyers’ laps.

You can’t guarantee your family won’t fight over your money. But you can lower the risks with proper estate planning. Get an experienced estate lawyer to advise you but:

  • Never forget that you have moral and legal obligations to meet. Failing to provide for a married spouse, common law spouse or financial dependent can cause your estate to end up in court. The fees to settle such disputes can be significant.
  • Inconsistent wording in a poorly prepared will can cause people to go to court over your intentions.
  • With Powers of Attorney, someone you trust can protect your money during your lifetime.

3.  Resolve to avoid money mismanagement

The executor of your estate can mismanage your money. So choose the right executor for your will. Choosing an estate trustee nobody can get along with is a big mistake.

Judges will not blame beneficiaries who must remove an incompetent or dishonest estate executor. When you fix an executor’s mistakes, it can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

What if the judge blames you for choosing the wrong person?  Judges can make your estate pay for the legal battle with your own money.

If your family ends up in court fighting to remove the executor, it can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Fighting will only waste you and your family’s money.

Happy New Year to All!

See My Related posts and ebook

About Edward Olkovich

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, C.S.) is a nationally recognized author and estate expert. He is a Toronto estate lawyer and Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and is the author of seven books. Visit his website, mrwills.com, for more free valuable information.

© Edward Olkovich 2012

 

 

Do You Really Need Lawyers to Make a Will

Are you tempted to use a kit to create your will? Remember this: you may never get a second chance to make a proper will. Nothing is more expensive than a cheap will that doesn’t work.

Let me explain the costly dangers that Alice’s relatives learned the hard way.

Alice was 82 and lived alone. Alice checked online and found she did not need a lawyer to prepare her will.  She bought a will kit but the instructions were too difficult to follow. She had heard a handwritten will was better than nothing.

Alice found some lined paper and wrote out her last wishes. Alice only had some bank funds so her note left all her property to her two nieces. She listed who was to get which china figurines. Alice assumed her family would sort things out.

Don’t Make Your Family Fix Your Mistakes

Unfortunately, when Alice died her relatives inherited the estate problems. Since Alice’s will was a hand written note, a judge needed to rule if it was a valid will.

It did not have any of the usual markings of a will. There were no witnesses named. No one could verify if and when Alice signed it. There was no executor named in the note.

Here were a few problems:

  • Alice’s bank could not release any information to the neices.
  • Her landlord would not allow anyone into Alice’s apartment.
  • No one had legal authority to represent her estate or collect benefits.

The nieces disagreed who should be in charge. They each hired their own lawyer.

Why Everyone Needs a Will lawyer

These lawyers told the nieces to go to court. Why should they do that? Because a judge must first accept Alice’s note as a valid holograph will. Then, and only then, could the nieces probate the will.

The nieces needed to find someone to verify Alice’s handwriting. It had to be someone who had no interest in her estate. Thus, a judge must disqualify the nieces and their family.

It would take weeks to prepare papers to file for a judge to consider. It took several weeks more to get probate. The nieces ran the estate. These administrative and legal costs could have been avoided with a lawyer prepared will.

Alice did not understand the costly problems her nieces would have to solve. Making a will is a simple investment. Use an experienced estate lawyer to save time and avoid unnecessary extra costs and legal fees.

Who Suffers from DIY Wills?

Yes, the law allows you to prepare your own will.

Some people will say that you can operate on yourself as well. But why would you?

To me this is an inaccurate comparison. DIY surgery does not harm other people. But dying with an invalid will leaves a burden on those you leave behind.

Wills Are Tax Saving Devices

One of my favorite financial writers with The Globe and Mail is Tim Cestnick. He has a way of simplifying tax topics. He explains how a proper will can give you tax savings. Well, you know, I have to share his story with you.

Click to read Cestnick’s wills and tax article.

I am an estate lawyer who writes wills. You can accuse me of a professional conflict of interest. You cannot accuse Tim Cestnick of having the same conflict. He is not a lawyer. He just wants to save your money.

Dangers of Will Kits 

The danger with will kits is that they claim to be “legally approved.” Well, that’s hardly accurate. Only lawyers can express a legal opinion on a will after you sign it.

Will kits and computer programs are not tamper-proof. They can’t prevent you from making a mistake when you fill out forms.

What you end up with may never be legal. It could also be a do-it-yourself disaster.

Don’t kid yourself. Making a will involves the intersection of tax, family, will, estate, property and trust laws that most people do not understand.

Invest in professional advice. It provides protection that you can count on when making an estate plan.

Get Experienced Legal Advice if You:

• Need tax advice

• Have minor children

• Are in a second marriage

• Need a marriage contract

• Have a common-law partner

• Have special-needs beneficiaries

• Were recently ill or hospitalized

• Own foreign assets or property

• Have substantial investments, a business or second home

Not All Lawyers Are the Same

Sure, I have seen bad wills prepared by lawyers. They are human, like doctors and dentists. It pays to do your homework before you hire a will lawyer.

Get Expert Advice

You can create an estate plan in a few weeks. You might only need one or two meetings with an experienced estate lawyer.

Fees for this work will vary. Fee rates depend on where you live, the complexity of your circumstances and your lawyer’s experience.

Don’t be afraid to ask lawyers what time and money you should budget.

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About Ed

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, C.S.) is a nationally recognized estate expert. He is a Toronto estate lawyer and Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and is the author of seven books. Visit his website, mrwills.com, for more free valuable information.

© Edward Olkovich 2012