Families come in all shapes and sizes, and that means probate and estate administration is never ‘one size fits all.’
The experienced team at CBM Lawyers who specializes in Estate Administration, as well as Estate and Personal Planning (Wills/Trusts, Powers of Attorney and Representation Agreements) approaches each estate they deal with based on its unique circumstances.
“No two estates are exactly alike. There may be similar steps that we have to work through, but every estate has to be looked at carefully,” says Lesley Russell, CBM Lawyers associate. “We want to make sure that the client knows what they need to do, and what we will be doing for them.”
Choosing an executor
Executors are responsible, legally, for clearly identifying the liabilities and assets of the person who’s passed away. In turn, executors are responsible for safeguarding the assets, ensuring the assets are first used to pay off all the liabilities and then disbursing what remains of the assets to the beneficiaries. It’s a lot of work during an emotional time, and takes many months or sometimes years to complete, especially if the estate is complex or the subject of dispute.
When choosing your executor consider the following:
- Age: When you’re young, you may ask a spouse, friend or parent to be your executor, but it’s a good idea to revisit your will as you age. The friend you asked 30 years ago may not be willing or able to be your executor anymore.
- Location: If possible, choose an executor who lives in the same province, or at least the same country. For some, the option of hiring a trust company may make sense. “Ideally, you want an executor who lives where you do as this will make it easier to deal with the various aspects of the estate. If your executor lives in a foreign country, then your estate will be treated as a foreign estate for tax purposes. This is because our tax laws determine the tax residency of an estate based on where the executor lives, which can result in higher taxes on the estate.”
- Aptitude: Choose someone you trust, and also someone with strong attention to detail and good organizational skills who will be able to handle the paperwork.
Organizing your assets
Some assets, like registered retirement accounts, are able to pass straight to beneficiaries without requiring probate (provided such assets have specifically named beneficiaries). Likewise, life insurance does not have to go through probate if there are named beneficiaries, which means the beneficiaries receive those funds much faster. Other assets, like property and bank accounts in the deceased’s own name have to go through the probate process first. Consider these questions:
- Would you like the family cottage to be passed on?
- Is one of your children going to move into your primary residence, or would it make sense to move into a rental and sell your home, if possible? Are there people who depend on you financially?
“A lawyer can help you review your assets to ensure your planning suitably deals with your assets. Some assets, like shares in the small corporation you use to operate your business or a residence you share with a second spouse, can require additional estate planning,” says CBM Lawyers associate Michael Dupuis.
It is imperative that an executor also determine what debts the deceased left behind, as they could be held personally responsible. To make the executor’s job more manageable, A Will-maker should try to ensure they’ve prepared a list of not just their assets, but liabilities as well.
“To avoid potentially being personally liable for these debts, the Executor should advertise for creditors,” says CBM Lawyers associate Janice Papp. “Advertising in the BC Gazette will be evidence that the executor attempted to find certain creditors. Your probate lawyer can help you navigate this step, and legal fees can be paid out of the estate.”
Keep the beneficiaries in your Will up to date
Choosing beneficiaries can be both emotionally challenging and administratively complicated. It is important to routinely review your Will to ensure it reflects your current wishes or any changes with respect to your beneficiaries.
If some members of your family will need extra assistance after you’re gone, a trust may be needed. Children and grandchildren under the age of majority, loved ones with special needs or receiving disability assistance, or loved ones with substance abuse issues can all be accounted for in your Will. Trusts can be set up to release funds month-to-month instead of in a single lump sum.
Probate and estate administration attorney in Langley
“There are a lot of steps, both legal and administrative,” says Lesley Russell, CBM Lawyers associate. “This is what I do day-in and day-out. In addition to my years of experience, I also have the support staff and resources to process things as quickly as possible. Our goal is to help make a difficult time easier for our clients and guide them through the process.”
To make an appointment with the CBM Lawyers Wills, Estates and Trusts Team, email email@example.com, call 604-533-3821 or visit cbmlawyers.com. Find CBM Lawyers in Maple Ridge at #203-22471 Lougheed Hwy.