Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning by Estate Lawyer in North Vancouver
You’ve worked hard for everything you have—make certain you’re prepared for the future with help from our legal team. At Lynn Valley Law, we prioritize our clients’ needs and wishes. We help you write your will, establish a living trust or put your affairs in order through estate planning. Our wills, trusts and estates lawyer in North Vancouver provides advice concerning successful family wealth planning, ensuring family business continuity, estate administration and more. Our team takes the burden off your shoulders and deals with lengthy and stressful procedures for you during delicate times. Contact our team for pragmatic and informed legal advice for considerable insight and support.
Efficient Estate Planning Solutions
Making decisions regarding succession after death can be a difficult and sometimes unpleasant process for many individuals. It can raise many questions and concerns. At Lynn Valley Law in North Vancouver, we can connect you with an experienced estate lawyer who can help you think through complex issues and find solutions that offer confidence and peace of mind.
Get an Experienced Estate Lawyer in North Vancouver
At Lynn Valley Law, we understand the importance of having an estate plan in place to protect wealth, property and other assets. It is why we can help you prepare and customize wills, trust, power of attorney, and representation agreements, among other legal documents. Our North Vancouver estate lawyers are well-versed in the law and have many years of expertise. Before putting together an estate plan, we'll look into your personal and financial circumstances.
Our team has your best interest in mind. We'll make sure your assets are allocated to the right individuals you choose. Our personnel will work to take care of your children and dependents’ interests. We'll also ensure that you have control over your health care and financial decisions. Please get in touch with our estate lawyers in North Vancouver if you have any questions regarding our services.
Protecting Your Future
Do you need an expert for drafting a will or guidance in planning business succession and estate distribution? Then benefit from our expert knowledge and practical experience, and get answers to the specific problems you encounter. Our key areas of practice include:
Whether you are young or old, wealthy or just starting, the future is uncertain for everyone, and one can never know how things will end up for their loved ones after their death. Often people find themselves wondering, "Who will get custody of my children?" or "How can I make sure my loved ones aren't saddled with debts after my death?" One of the ways to ensure that your near and dear ones get their due after you aren’t around to take care of them is by creating a will. A formal will enables you to distribute your wealth wisely, take care of your children and the succession of your business, and have control over who manages your estate and how.
At Lynn Valley Law, our will lawyers in North Vancouver have the experience and ability to ensure that your desires are correctly and explicitly stated with clarity and accuracy, whether you want to establish a will or modify an existing will. We can prepare all manner of wills, from simple to complex, for larger estates and small so that your wishes as to who should receive your assets upon death can be best realized and reliably carried out. Additionally, we can evaluate your current will to ensure that it is still valid and that nothing has been overlooked. You can trust us to go above and beyond to identify any legal issues that may arise out of the points mentioned in the will. In case we come across any such situations, we will work towards minimizing the potential litigious issues and eliminating any chances of family feuds or conflicts.
But wills are only one method to pass your assets on to your chosen beneficiaries upon your death. Joint ownership, or direct beneficiary designations, or trusts, or deeds of gift are other methods of passing on your assets.
They also avoid the chief pitfalls of passing your assets through a will, such as 1) wills variation applications by a disgruntled spouse or a child who has received a smaller share than his siblings; 2) provincial probate fees and taxes; and 3) the delay caused by the process of obtaining a probate order from the court. However, there are risks in some cases, such as joint ownership and informal trust agreements, and we can advise on those as well.
We can also advise on family law issues that could impact your estate planning, such as possible claims on your assets by spouses in the case of divorce or separation or claims by spouses of one or more of your beneficiaries on their eventual inheritances. For any questions, feel free to contact our team, and we will be right with you. You can also get in touch with us to get help with real estate law and more.
Legal Advice Regarding Wills
At Lynn Valley Law, we understand that creating a will is integral to estate planning. Our team of lawyers will conduct an estate planning interview before we proceed with creating a will. We will discuss your family, companies, finances, beneficiary designations, insurance, and more to help you create a will in North Vancouver. Our team of lawyers has many years of experience in this line. You can rely on us to offer reliable advice where needed.
Our trusted lawyers will help you create a will that will eliminate disputes such as the distribution of property or wealth in the event of your death. A will ensures that the assets in your estate will be distributed as per your wishes. Our team offers advice regarding wills in North Vancouver. We work hard and strive to provide every client with reliable and trusted services. You can rest assured that your property will be distributed as you intended. Get in touch with us now for more information. We will be happy to help.
We can advise on a plan to legally avoid the need for probate of your will or estate upon death, hence eliminating the court probate application fees and related provincial fees/taxes of 0.6% on estates worth between $25,000 - $50,000 and 1.4% on amounts above this, and streamline the distribution of your assets upon death.
In real terms, this means probate fees of $14,000 on every million dollars of value in the estate. Considering the value of residences in the Lower Mainland, an estate worth in excess of a million dollars is far from uncommon.
Direct Beneficiary Designations
Owners of Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP), Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIF or RIF), Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA), and life insurance policies may name direct beneficiaries on those plans or policies, and upon your death, the beneficiaries will receive the remaining funds in the plans or policies. If you name direct beneficiaries on the plans or policies, there will be no need for probate, or probate fees and taxes, to distribute those assets. However, there may still be significant income tax considerations depending on how much the value of the Plan or Fund has grown since inception.
In real terms this means probate fees of $14,000 on every million dollars of value in the estate. Considering the value of residences in the Lower Mainland, an estate worth in excess of a million dollars is far from uncommon.
Direct beneficiary designations should be used where possible. They do not carry the dangers of other probate-avoidance methods such as joint ownerships since the asset is passed directly to the beneficiary or beneficiaries. However, unexpected tax consequences should be taken into account when devising an estate plan.
TFSA and life insurance policyholders pay contributions and premiums using post-tax dollars or income. So when they are collapsed and paid out upon the death of the contributor, the funds in those accounts or plans are paid out tax-free to the beneficiaries with no tax consequences to the estate or the beneficiaries. However, RRSP and RRIF accounts consist of contributions made up of pre-tax dollars. When they are collapsed and paid out upon the death of the contributor, the entire account is considered income of the estate in that year and taxed at the marginal rate. For instance, on an RRIF or RRSP account of $250,000, with no other income in the estate, the taxes could be over $90,000.
Under section 160.2 of the Income Tax Act, the estate and the beneficiary are jointly liable for taxes on proceeds of RRSPs and RRIFs distributed on the contributor's death. If there is not enough money in the estate to pay the taxes, CRA will look to the individual beneficiary for payment based on the amount he or she actually received from the account.
Hence it is imperative for the estate and individual account beneficiaries to plan and ensure that enough funds are held back at the time of distribution to pay the taxes at the end of that taxation year.
The use of dual or multiple wills is legal in British Columbia and can be used to minimize probate fees payable. One will can include assets such as real estate or funds held in financial institutions, which would require a probate order to access and distribute. The remaining assets, which do not require a probate order to access and distribute, including such potentially valuable items such as company shares, pass through a second will that is not probated. Thus the pro-rated provincial probate fee/tax isn’t levied on the assets passing through the second will. This requires a different executor for each will, and both wills would be potentially subject to wills variation challenges.
Life Estates and Blended Families
A life estate interest in real estate gives the holder the right to exclusive use and enjoyment of the real estate for the rest of that person’s lifetime, or, typically, until they cease occupying the premises. Even then, and depending on the specific terms of the gift or bequest, they may have the right to rental income from the property for the rest of their lives.
In the case of an investment fund, the life estate holder would receive all of the income generated from the fund for the rest of their lives, but no access to the capital.
Life estates can be very useful in blended family situations, where the marriage is a second marriage for at least one of the parties who is bringing substantial assets or even a residence into the marriage, and one or both of the parties have children from their first marriages. For instance, the couple may be living in a residence owned by the husband, and he wishes to leave it to her for the rest of her life and to his children following her death.
Two or more persons sharing the formal legal title to either real estate or bank and investment accounts is a common and effective method to avoid the need for probate of those assets upon death, due to the right of survivorship held by the surviving owner or owners. We can advise on the benefits, dangers and drawbacks of joint ownership.
Joint ownership should, in most cases, be accompanied by a bare trust or secret trust agreement between or among the owners.
Trusts are an extremely flexible and powerful tool for holding or managing assets while you are still alive or after death. It basically involves the owner (the “settlor”) transferring the legal title of an asset to a “trustee” who holds or manages the asset for the benefit of another person or people or organization (the trust “beneficiary”).
Testamentary trusts can be set up inside a will for an executor or trustee to manage on continuing basis bequests or gifts to minor children or young adults, or persons with disabilities.
CRA registered trusts such as Alter Ego trusts (for persons 65 and over) or Joint Partner (spousal) trusts, or Family trusts can be used to avoid the need for probate, or probate fees and taxes, regarding assets transferred to the trust. They can also be used to distribute income from the trust in a tax-wise manner continuously to the trust beneficiaries.
The Bare trust or more expansive Secret trust is less expensive to prepare and more flexible in scope, but less secure from abuse. Typically, a parent may add one of their children to the joint title with them to real estate or bank accounts or both, with the understanding that after the parent dies, the child who then holds the sole title by right of survivorship to the real estate or accounts will divide the assets equally among all the siblings.
A Secret trust agreement between the parent and the child being added to the title can be used to clarify in writing that the child has no beneficial interest while the parent remains alive; and after the death of the parent, the child on the title would be bound to divide the property equally among all the siblings, or however, is set out in the trust agreement. The result is that the need for probate, and accompanying probate fees and taxes and general delay, have been avoided. As well, there is no possibility of a wills variation challenge regarding these assets since none of these assets has passed through the will.
A Secret trust agreement may also be used to bind the direct beneficiary of an RRSP or RRIF or TFSA or life insurance policy to distribute the proceeds as laid out between the deceased and the beneficiary in the trust agreement, again avoiding the need for probate or a possible wills variation challenge regarding those assets.
Legal Presumptions, Undue Influence, and the Need to Document Intentions
When a property is transferred to a spouse or minor children at no cost, it is presumed to be a gift. This is referred to as the Presumption of Advancement. In all other cases, including gratuitous transfers to adult children, it is presumed that the property was transferred on the understanding that the person receiving legal title holds it in trust for the person who transferred it, despite there being no indication nor notation on the title that it is held in trust. This is known as the Presumption of Resulting Trust.
These are only presumptions, however, and they can be rebutted by sufficient evidence to the contrary. A trust agreement clearly laying out the terms upon which the person added to the joint title has agreed to administer or distribute the property when the donor dies would be sufficient evidence of intention so that there is no need to rely upon presumptions. Or a Deed of Gift or Statutory Declaration can confirm the intention to actually gift the property, immediately or after the death of the donor.
In situations where, for instance, an increasingly elderly parent lives with his or her child, the potential for dependence or domination of the parent by the child is increasingly present. Where such a situation exists, and the parent makes a bequest or gift in their will to that child, and particularly if the bequest is bigger than those left for the other children, the onus is on the child to establish that he or she did not unduly influence the parent.
Wills Estates and Succession Act section 52 confirms that in situations where the potential for dependence or domination is present, the onus is on the beneficiary to establish that undue influence did not occur.
A Statutory Declaration by the will-maker explaining the reasons for the larger bequest can help to establish that it was not the result of undue influence. This can also be useful whenever one child is provided with a significant financial or property gift that his or her siblings were not, or of a greater amount than that given to the other siblings, whether by will or joint ownership or direct beneficiary designation or shares in a company or any other method of transfer. It can also be very useful in cases where the transfer is to a second spouse who is not the parent of all of the will-maker/transferor’s children.
For any older person transferring a significant asset to a spouse or child, and particularly in the circumstances just described, there should also be a letter from the will-maker’s doctor obtained on a date close to the making of the will or transfer of the asset confirming the doctor’s opinion that the will-maker is at that time:
a) in stable health;
b) oriented as to person place and time and is able to respond to questions appropriately; and
c) mentally capable of making financial and other decisions, including making a will.