Category: Estate Planning
Those who follow American politics have probably heard of Roland Burris. He is controversial Governor Rod Blagojevich’s choice to replace the Senate seat vacated by President –Elect Barack Obama. While the constitutional debate continues on whether or not Burris can be seated in the Senate, another issue that has grabbed the headlines is Burris’ final resting place.
Burris has commissioned for himself a grand mausoleum consisting of two columns and three tablets referring to himself as a trail blazer and listing all his political and business accomplishments, both minor and major, with room for more to be engraved. The monument, referred to “as his resume in stone” had attracted unfavourable attention from the media and earned Burris the nickname “Tombstone”. Needless to say, it was probably not the effect Burris intended.
While many people include burial instructions in their Will, such instructions are not binding on the estate. The estate trustee has the ultimate responsibility to make burial arrangements. For those who wish to make elaborate arrangements, they should make those instructions clear to the estate trustee and other family members, so that the estate trustee is not criticized for the expense to the estate. Additionally, we can take Burris’ lead and make our own arrangement during our lifetime. Click here to read Paul Trudelle’s paper on estate issues and dealing with the body after death.
Thanks for reading,
I hope everyone is having great holiday season.
With the close of 2008, we turn and look to the promise of 2009. In looking ahead to 2009 many may wonder if they have properly protected and provided for those they intend to protect should something unexpected happen to them. Questions may also arise regarding whether a spouse or parent has taken steps to provide for themselves and/or those they intend to provide for.
While there are no doubt many things to consider for the new year from a family perspective, perhaps this is the year to resolve to consider, or reconsider, whether your family’s legal affairs have been properly planned.
I wish everyone a healthy, happy and prosperous 2009.
Happy New Year! Craig
Yesterday, I blogged about how the downturn in the economy has caused a decline in charitable donations this year. It is also having an impact on estate planning. Rather than spending money on a lawyer, an increasing amount of people are turning to the internet to draw up their last will and testament.
Several online sites are providing people with cheap and fast ways to do their wills. Typically the sites, which offer wills for as little of $19.95, takes users through a list of questions about their family, assets, and how they want to distribute their estate.
I looked at a couple of the sites and my first thought was that they both included what, on the face of it, looked like simple enough questions, but which included possible serious legal effects which a casual user would likely not pick up on…and I didn’t see any which showed a sensitivity to legal obligations a testator may have in dividing an estate.
One will program I came across included the question, “are you currently of sound mind and free of mental illness” which will not necessarily catch those who are not!
While do-it-yourself programs might be useful for some people, lawyers often discourage against relying on them (and not just because we want the business). Even the simplest estate plan can involve more than simply checking off boxes on a page. I have seen more than one estate complicated by someone who took the do-it-yourself approach and developed an estate plan which was not legally viable.
If you’re not persuaded that you need a lawyer to draw your will, you would still do well to have one review the will you have done yourself to ensure that all your bases are covered and your will reflects the distribution of assets you intend.
Have a great day!
Megan F. Connolly
This week on Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Ian and Suzana start a discussion on their global philosophy toward the estate planning process. There are direct and indirect approaches to capacity and estate planning and in this episode, Ian and Suzana explore these approaches as they pertain to the choice of attorney.
If you have any comments, send us an email at email@example.com or leave a comment on our blog.
This week on Hull on Estates, Ian and Suzana bring us up to date on what has been happening at Hull and Hull over the summer. Jordan Atin appeared on Canada AM to talk about how to avoid The Family War. They have also added two books to their recommended reading list:
Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch
Endless Referrals by Bob Burg
Ian and Suzana then discuss issues to consider in estate planning for the newly separated spouse. They talk about the two different types of claims that can be made: Equalization and Claim for support.
A new Hull and Hull breakfast series will take place on Wednesday, October 8, 2008 and participants are encouraged to attend either via webcast or in person. You can also contact Hull and Hull by leaving a message or question with any of the following:
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us on the comment line at 206-350-6636, or leave us a comment on the Hull on Estates blog.
I recall a good deal of discussion when Leona Helmsley left millions to be held in trust in her Will last year, some of it on the Hull & Hull blogs and podcasts.
Well, the website for Estate Planning for Pets provides some interesting reading in this vein, although the kind of trust established by Ms. Helmsley is obviously rare. My own eye was drawn to the “for skeptics” section, which admonished professionals to put their clients’ wishes first, not their own priorities.
The point seems to be that rather than focus on one’s own, subjective opinion that money to pets could be used for other purposes, it is more appropriate to consider what happens to the pet if the testator makes no provision. Absent provision, the pet could end up abused, ignored or euthanized. Anyone who has lost a beloved pet can probably understand why testators want to soften the blow to a pet who loses them.
Thanks for reading.
Estate planning and litigation professionals are still mulling over how the legalization of same-sex marriage will affect their practices. Even more complex developments may be in the offing.
An allegedly polygamist community in British Columbia and increased concerns about the possibility of polygamy elsewhere in all but name in other regions of the country raise any number of issues, not only of policy, but also estate planning.
For example, if someone dies leaving multiple spouses but only one legally-married spouse, what advantages would the legally-married spouse have over the others in the division of a contested estate?
How will the fact that bigamy and polygamy remain illegal play out in civil estate disputes?
If proscriptions on polygamy are or become ignored by governments, will the law evolve? And as it did in the case of same-sex marriage, what happens if bigamy or polygamy becomes legal, since families may become large enough that dependant’s support claims could exhaust most estates rendering much estate planning redundant?
Stay tuned and thanks for reading.
Dame Anita Roddick, the founder of the Body Shop, gave away her entire wealth, approximately 102 million dollars, to various charities while alive. She only left enough money in her estate to pay the inheritance tax on those charitable gifts. Once the inheritance tax is paid, the value of her estate will be nil.
Roddick had been very vocal about her intentions to give her wealth to charities and called the idea of bequeathing her estate to her two daughters obscene. Prior to their mother’s death, her two daughters were interviewed and reportedly relieved to not be inheriting their mother’s wealth and supportive of their mother’s charitable giving.
Needless to say, Roddick’s decision to leave nothing to her two daughters sparked some discussion. David Smith’s previous blog on wealthy parents and transfer of wealth discusses some of the concerns such individuals have about estate planning.
Thanks for reading,
By my count, in the relatively short history of our website, our firm’s lawyers have blogged on the transfer of wealth by the boomers to their children on six separate occasions. See, for example, this blog and this blog. And our blogs reflect a trend to report on the subject as the dominant sociological issue in the business media. See, for example, this piece by Jonathan Chevreau of the National Post.
Numerous surveys have been released as to the intentions of boomers with respect to their estate plans. The fundamental characteristic is a focus (on those in their fifties) on enjoying quality time with their families and ensuring that their estate plan properly provides for their children both before and after they are gone. Some have suggested that this "family focus" is a departure from previous generations although I think this is open to question. Nonetheless, the statistics are illuminating, particularly respecting inter-vivos gifts to children.
Take, for instance, the findings of a Royal Bank of Canada Poll released in November, 2007:
1. Fifty-seven per cent of Canadians in their fifties have received or are expecting to receive money from their parents and in-laws;
2. Approximately three in five respondents in their fifties expect to give money, during their lifetime, to their own adult children; of those, sixty-nine per cent say they will do so because they want to see their children enjoy their lives; seven per cent say that they would not, believing that their children need to earn their own way or wait until their parent dies.
5. When contemplating their legacy, seven in ten respondents want to be remembered as a person who enjoyed time with their family. This family focus is also reflected in the finding that four in five of those in their fifties believe that "their children are their legacy."
David M. Smith
Checklists are wonderful things when it comes to the practice of law (list makers would argue that that is true in life as well). In today’s busy practice, a checklist can ease the troubled legal mind.
I was looking at several estate planning information checklists earlier this week. It is worthwhile to highlight some issues/items that can be easily overlooked but which a thorough solicitor should ensure is on his/her checklist:
· If you are acting for both spouses/partners, advise the clients that you cannot act for one at a later date without the other’s knowledge;
· Is the estate trustee to manage funds for minors and distribute monies to the guardian for care, maintenance and education of minor children. Who is the guardian;
· If they can be transferred, who gets air mile/loyalty points. What about transferable equity in hunting/fishing lodges or sports clubs;
· Joint Assets and the presumption of a resulting trust – is there a clear intention of ownership;
· For foreign property, consider the necessity of executing a separate will or appointment of a local estate trustee;
· Ensure every life interest is coupled with a remainder interest; and
· Ensure any charitable organization named as beneficiary is still in existence and properly described.
Have a great weekend and for all those skiers out there, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.