Get to know your distant relatives

June 12, 2013 Hull & Hull LLP Estate Planning Tags: 0 Comments

In the past few years, genealogy has become a popular conversation topic as television shows like “Who Do You Think You Are?” joined websites such as Ancestry.ca and FamilySearch.org in building people’s interest in their extended family trees.

When it comes to chasing your family lineage, there are pros and cons to an increasingly technologically- and globally-focused world. With international travel, cross-border marriage and transnational business, families today have potential to be dispersed across the globe, as opposed to permanent, stable fixtures within a particular community

However, internet and other telecommunications advances have also made it easier than ever to connect with family worldwide. Through avenues like Facebook, LinkedIn and ancestry websites, we can learn about our extended family, both living and not.  Family records, news archives and other useful information is also more easily accessible than ever before.

Some baby boomers are now using these resources to create family trees and books aimed at teaching the next generation about their family’s past. Reasons for this include celebrating your family’s past, preserving your family members’ individual knowledge and wisdom as well as the family’s unique history and stories. It is a way of bringing a glimpse of your family’s past into a vision of its future.

Family trees and being aware of possible beneficiaries to someone’s estate, both close to home and far, is helpful in the administration of one’s estate. This is true particularly in the case of an intestacy. Sections 45-47 of the Succession Law Reform Act outline the distribution of property in such a case. These sections set out distribution to degrees of issue in the following order: property to spouse and children (in certain proportions), followed by parents, next by brothers and sisters, then nephews and nieces and finally, “the next of kin of equal degree of consanguinity to the intestate equally without representation”. Where there is no surviving issue, the property becomes the property of the Crown. Thus, to avoid property escheating to the Crown,  sometimes issue such as great-nieces and great-nephews are sought out after death, a task not always so simple. The knowledge of the existence or inexistence of next of kin can assist with the difficult task of dealing with distribution upon intestacy.

Family trees and an awareness of possible beneficiaries to one’s estate is also helpful when it comes to estate planning. Knowing who is alive and where they are situated, both geographically and within the family,  can be useful in making important decisions about gift giving, designating beneficiaries and drafting a will. Addressing potential issues relating to extended family that could arise upon death are best dealt with during the planning stage to avoid future complications. 

Have a wonderful day,

Suzana Popovic-Montag

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