Pre-probate Checklist – Hull on Estate and Succession Planning #99
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They then wrap up their ongoing discussion about some useful steps to remember when administering an estate.
Pre-probate Checklist – Hull on Estate and Succession Planning Podcast #99
Posted on February 12th, 2008 by Hull & Hull LLP
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Hi, and welcome to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning. You’re listening to Episode #99 of our podcast on Tuesday, February 12th, 2008.
Welcome to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, a series of podcasts hosted by
Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag, that will provide information and insights into estate planning in Canada, from the offices of Hull Estate Mediation in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Here are Ian and Suzana.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Hi and welcome to another episode of Hull on Estate and Succession Planning. I’m Suzana Popovic-Montag.
Ian Hull: And I’m Ian Hull. If you want to be heard on our podcast, you can participate with our discussion by calling and leaving a comment on our call-in line. This is number 206-457-1985.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: The number is in the show notes along with our e-mail address if you’d like to send us a message by e-mail at email@example.com. Or, of course, you can visit us at our blog at estatelaw.hullandhull.com.
Ian Hull: Alright Suzana. Well, you know, before we get into our topic today, I wanted to just start with a couple of quick comments. We had an interesting week this week. We were at…there was one of the big conferences, the Estates Conference of the Ontario Bar Association, the Institute. A couple of great speakers, Clare Burns spoke though, and Jordan Atin, our colleague, spoke in the morning on two, what I thought were fantastic topics and just great speeches. Clare talked about an interesting comment that she had on cases that are coming out and I thought it was interesting because we’ll talk a little bit about this in the context of estate administration. And that is, what happens in this new reproductive world that we live in and when you have babies born through artificial insemination and so forth, you create an interesting estate question. And that is, if someone doesn’t have a Will and a baby has been born through circumstances of artificial insemination, you may have parents that aren’t at the table, so to speak, but you may have issues of distribution that get affected by virtue of the fact that you have a father and a child and the father isn’t around to follow through the chain of command, so to speak. And, for example, in a situation where there’s an intestacy and a child dies and has no siblings, you go to brothers and sisters first. But then you go to parents. And the father may still be alive. For example, say the child is 35 years of age. He was born as a result of artificial insemination through a Sperm Bank and the mother never knew the father, never had anything to do with the father. Well, interesting question was lifted onto the table by Clare Burns, is that are there estate administration issues that come from this?
And I think, really, the point she was making that I thought was so telling was, is that we really are moving into a new age of who are parents and who are not parents and who could take in an estate and who may not take in an estate. And I just thought it was a fascinating discussion.
That was followed by a great discussion by Jordan Atin, who talked about family war in his book The Family War. You and I have talked about it many times and he had a really wonderful speech, great dialogue about what to watch out for and what to do to help avoid the family war. So that was good fun. And then Jordan, that week as well, went on a show called Strictly Legal, a show with Michael Cochrane, a great friend of ours and a colleague. It’s on Business News Network. I had been on it two weeks earlier talking about estate planning and estate administration issues. So it’s been a good week, and a lot of fun. Lots of stuff going on.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: That sounds like a really interesting discussion, certainly with the Children’s Lawyer – that’s Clare Burns for those who may not be aware that she actually represents the Office here in Ontario, the government office responsible for minor and unborn children. So it’s interesting to hear how these issues arise in practice and I’m sure Clare’s got lots of stories that she could share with us.
Ian Hull: So let’s turn back to our discussion about administering an estate and talk about some more of the practical things that we want to consider and we want to do in this stage where we haven’t got probate, but we’ve got lots of work to do. And we roll up the sleeves a little bit. We talked about in our last podcast things like the safety deposit box step. And it’s interesting; I’m an executor in an estate just recently. And I, too, went to the bank and I went and emptied the safety deposit box. Went through the whole process of that and it was sort of an interesting experience in the sense that, you know, you’ve got to roll your sleeves up and do these things to really believe it. But the fascinating thing I sort of took from going to the safety deposit box was that both banks I went to…we were clearing out the bank accounts and clearing out the safety deposit box…were so nice. And I go in there thinking, “geez, I’m taking all their business away from them, and I’m closing the accounts because the person’s died and we’re about to distribute to the beneficiaries”. And the staff and the system that they had set up to deal with me, to go through the box, close the account, they had a special representative to deal with me and so on… they were both – one was a credit union and the other was a bank. But I thought it was interesting because I haven’t done one of those for a couple years now and just, you realize that the financial institutions are becoming aware of the importance of the transition. And what that process left for me was a good feeling about those two banks and I thought, “geez, you know, if I had someone to recommend or I had an estate or someone to deal with, the personal touch that they put into that process was a good way to leave some goodwill on the table to those who are living”. And I thought it was an interesting marketing point that I hadn’t realized that the banks were so attune to. And I just highly recommend it. And in this case, it was the Bank of Montreal. We have no ads from them in our podcast, but I will admit that was the case.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Why do I have a feeling, Ian, that you didn’t necessarily tell them you were a lawyer?
Ian Hull: Oh, no, I did, they knew.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Oh did you?
Ian Hull: Yeah. Yeah, oh yeah…they weren’t–
Suzana Popovic-Montag: That’s even better!
Ian Hull: Yeah, that’s so true, you know. I thought that too because, but they…oh yeah, they knew I was a lawyer. I had wrote them before to set up things and stuff and so they knew I was coming.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Way to go, Bank of Montreal.
Ian Hull: Yeah. So it’s funny to see… but it was a good point because the financial institutions are picking up on the fact that if you provide good service in this area you:
- You’ll get some business back, no doubt; but
- It’s not expensive service and it’s something that many, many people are going to need in the future.
Let’s talk on another area, about dealing with the banks and the transfer agents and so on in the estate administration and some of the first steps we want to take with them. And as you say, they knew I was a lawyer because I wrote them with some introductory letters and so on to sort of warn them I was coming.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And I imagine that, as part of that introductory process, people will also write to the registered retirement plans that they’re aware of, to the insurance companies advising of the fact that the deceased has passed away and trying to get confirmation or details of the assets or the debts. Possibly to obtain any refunds that might be payable under any other of the assets owned by the deceased.
Ian Hull: That’s right. And, you know, I make sure that you do follow a checklist pretty carefully on who you have to write and what you have to do. My own personal experience was where, in my own family circumstances, where I saw it too is that when someone transfers into a Power of Attorney status, the same sorts of things have to be undertaken. You have to…well you want to anyway…put together a pretty comprehensive checklist to follow through. You know, a letter to the bank with a copy of the Power of Attorney, or in the case of someone passing away, with a notary copy of the Will and so on. As I say, the transfer agents and you know, former employers, the OAS, CPP, that’s the Old Age Security people and the Canada Pension people as well. For sure, those are other people you want to write to in this transfer-over process.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: And if we have any information about annuities, mortgages and receivables, those kinds of things that were owned by the deceased, we’d want to write and advise them as well.
Ian Hull: I have an interesting case that I dealt with a couple years ago where we were administrating the estate. And about two-thirds through the administration, one of the executor said, “you know, I’m pretty sure there was an estate down in California that the deceased was fighting about or dealing with”. And sure enough, we made some inquiries for other interests in another estate and in that case, we were still waiting. The California lawyers were just waiting to wrap it up. And they said, “oh yeah, we’re glad to hear from you, we weren’t sure who the executor was, we were going to get back to you”. They were in no rush because they were still in the middle of cleaning it up. But it was a fruitful inquiry in that case and a fair amount of money came up from California. So you don’t want to miss an asset that might be out there in the form of an estate that has already fallen but hadn’t actually been paid out.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: That’s a really good point. I certainly have my own checklist, have a reference to the fact that, you know, you should be advising the Post Office so that mail can be re-directed, following up with the Passport Office and health cards, those kinds of things that have to be advised or cancelled. Driver’s license for the deceased, the Social Insurance number and, of course, any credit cards that he or she may have had in his or her own name.
Ian Hull: With the advent of points and Air Miles and so on as well, you want to deal with the transfer of that. My experience with that is, is that it can be fairly important. I mean, if someone has lived a busy life and been on lots of airplanes or built up a lot of points, it can mean a fair amount of money. And I also find that the Air Miles companies and so on are typically pretty sensitive to the fact that they have some flexible rules. You have to do it reasonably quickly. I mean, they won’t let you sit around forever. But often some of them will let you distribute the points in a fairly flexible way like, you know, split them amongst the family or that kind of thing, or roll them into the spouse’s name quickly and so on. So that’s worthwhile following up. And I guess what makes it, you know, worthwhile and what this process and the letter writing, the importance of it is, is that if you work from a checklist, you don’t miss a major asset. And if you don’t…for example, a little thing like change the Post Office address and you lose the notice of an investment portfolio coming to your attention, then you’re exposed as an executor. So this administrative stuff, while on the face of it looks like stuff that, you know, oh my gosh, first of all who would bother or who really thinks about these things. They actually can be really important because ultimately if you miss an Air Miles and the deceased died with 700,000 Air Miles on his card, it may mean a lot to a beneficiary. And in a case like that with those kind of points…one case I was involved with it was an emotional point because they were a little frustrated by the fat that their mother had spent so much time away from them. And so, in a sense, it was like a bit of the payback for all of her time. So, I mean, there are little anecdotal things that can happen. Club memberships, for sure, is another thing to think about because there might be some equity in the club membership and so forth.
So, I think what we wanted to try to talk about today was:
- Our busy week that we’ve thought we’d share with everyone; and
- Some of these sort of… tangible, sort of, roll-up-your-sleeves steps that you want to take a look at.
Because next week, we’re going to turn to the question of valuations. And that is in and of itself worth a week of podcasting straight without taking a break. But we’re going to talk about the concept and talk about how it plays such an important role in an estate administration during our next podcast. Thanks very much.
Suzana Popovic-Montag: Thanks to you, Ian. And we do look forward to hearing from our listeners. You can send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or just pick up the phone and call 206-457-1985. We hope you enjoyed the show.
You’ve been listening to Hull on Estate and Succession Planning with Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag. The podcast you have been listening to has been provided as an information service. It is a summary of current legal issues in estates and estate planning. It is not legal advice and you are reminded to always talk with a legal professional regarding your specific circumstances.
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