Our Wills & Estates
Our Wills, Estates and Estate Disputes practice includes the following areas:
- Estate planning
- Incapacity planning
- Estate administration
- Estate litigation
Clients who need Wills and Estates legal advice need more than a lawyer; they need an advisor who can understand their concerns, hopes, desires and challenges. Clients in this area want to understand their legal options in the context of their emotional preferences and the pressures they are facing. They need someone who doesn’t simply tell them the law, but helps to ensure the law works for them.
Our Wills & Estates team has many years of combined experience in providing exceptional legal services to our Estate clients in all areas of Estate Law. What sets us apart is our ability to provide these services with empathy and sensitivity, on a highly personalized basis.
We understand that the times in which a client seeks Wills & Estates advice can be challenging, so we seek to make the legal process as painless as possible. For example:
- We don’t believe in the cookie-cutter approach. We look at each situation with fresh eyes and work to create a tailored solution for your particular situation.
- We are accessible (easy to reach) and responsive (we get back to your enquiries promptly).
- We strive to resolve your legal issues as quickly as possible.
- We are cost-effective. We regularly conduct marketplace surveys and know that our fees are equal to or lower than many of our competitors. We also make use of our dedicated paralegal wherever appropriate, to ensure further cost savings.
- We are great collaborators with related service providers, such as accountants and financial advisors. As a full service firm, our clients also have access to our in-house expertise in many related areas such as family law and corporate/commercial law (especially of value for family businesses and succession planning).
Our Recent Newsletters
- May 2018 – Is Your Elderly Client being Taken Advantage Of?
- April 2018 – Missing Persons – What Happens to their Assets?
- March 2018 – The “Back of a Napkin” Will – A New Challenge for Estate Advisors
- February 2018 – The “Green Burial” Movement – Not Just “Plain-Jane” Cremation Anymore
- January 2018 – Reflections of the Past Year – What NOT to Do Using a Power of Attorney
- November 2017 – The Forgotten Tax Changes— Principal Residences
- October 2017 – Joint Tenancy – Documenting Intention After Transfer
- September 2017 – Shareholders’ Agreements – The Forgotten Estate Planning Tool
- August 2017 – Good Reasons for Disinheriting a Family Member?
- July 2017 – Am I Still Entitled to Spousal/Child Support, Now That My Ex Has Died?
- June 2017 – Best Practices to Avoid Disputes
- May 2017 – Challenges to Wills (Wills Variation) – Do You Have a Claim?
- April 2017 – The Pitfalls of Joint Tenancy – Unclear Intentions and Disputes after Death
- March 2017 – Can an Executor be Removed for Improperly Dealing with the Estate?
- February 2017 – Dealing with Problem Executors
- January 2017 – Common Executor Mistakes
- November 2016 – Life Insurance & Minor Children
- October 2016 – Wills for Business Owners
- September 2016 – Dangers of the “Back of the Napkin” Will
- August 2016 – Tips for Executors
- July 2016 – Life Insurance Policy | What are the Downsides to Naming a Minor as Beneficiary?
- June 2016 – Is Joint Tenancy the Best Choice in Estate Planning?
- May 2016 – Does Dementia Invalidate a Will?
- April 2016 – What Happens to Joint Accounts upon Separation?
- March 2016 – Are You Eligible for Disability Benefits and Asset Exemptions?
Our Wills & Estates lawyers provide full estate planning services, serving clients whose needs range from simple to complex.
We provide assistance with basic estate planning (such as the preparation of Wills, Powers of Attorney, Representation Agreements, living wills, property/land transfers, simple trusts), as well as with complex personal planning (involving blended families, trusts, high net-worth clients and multi-jurisdictional assets). We regularly provide business clients with wealth planning using such tools as estate freezes and family trusts, and we devise estate and succession plans using shareholders agreements and buy/sell agreements. We advise on the development of charitable giving strategies, allowing clients to embrace philanthropic desires, minimize taxes or leave a legacy.
Our Estate Planning lawyers have developed a particular niche in advising clients whose family dynamics are complex due to blended families, second marriages or involve older adults who are vulnerable or who have incapacity issues.
We pride ourselves in our dedication to remaining current in the ever-changing areas of succession (wills) law, probate practice and tax law. Perhaps most importantly we serve our clients with sensitivity and empathy, and provide ideas and practical advice based on experience and proven results.
Our lawyers provide estate administration services, assisting the executor or administrator (the “personal representative”) of an estate with the administration of the estate of deceased persons. In this role we make applications for grants of probate or administration, help with identifying and accessing the assets of the deceased, settle debts, mediate disputes with beneficiaries or creditors, and navigate the legal procedures to transmit assets. We assist the personal representative with the preparation and approval of accounts, and the ultimate distribution of the estate to the beneficiaries.
The legal guidance that we provide to the personal representative enables them to carry out their duties properly, in a manner that protects them from liability, and provides the beneficiaries with the confidence that the estate has been properly and fairly administered.
We regularly tailor our legal services to the needs of the personal representative, providing as much or as little assistance as is needed/desired in the circumstances. Our focus is on providing practical, sound advice to problems or legal issues that arise, and on doing everything we can to ensure that the estate is administered in a timely manner.
With the added benefit of having a paralegal as part of our estate administration team, our clients find we are even more responsive and accessible, and that we deliver timely and affordable legal services.
Our firm is well recognized as a leader in Estate dispute resolution. Our lawyers recognize that Estate disputes are particularly likely to result in emotionally sensitive and difficult circumstances, when clients are at their most vulnerable. As such we are adept at advising our clients with compassion, and often find that mediation or other alternative forms of dispute resolution can achieve a fair result that the client is satisfied with; disputes do not always necessitate litigation.
Our Estate court room lawyers have helped many clients successfully make or defend Estate claims and Will challenges at all levels of Court in British Columbia. We act for beneficiaries, intestate heirs, family members who are concerned about incapacity or undue influence, trustees and executors.
Fulton Information Sheets
- Do I Need A Will?
- Common Mistakes of Executors
- Dealing with Problem Executors
- Highlights of Changes to BC Law
- Passing Accounts
- Planning for Incapacity
- Wills Variation Claims
- Where There’s a Will — What is Probate?
- Multiple Wills
Items to Consider
- A Death in Your Family from the People’s Law School covers what to do first when a family member dies, making funeral arrangements and where to find support.
- Dial-a-law has informative publications and audio clips from the Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch, regarding wills and estate planning, what happens when you die without a will, executors’ duties, disappointed beneficiaries, and power of attorney and representation agreements.
- Power of Attorney arrangements – The People’s Law School Power of Attorney publication explains these agreements, including who can be your attorney, and what their powers and responsibilities will be.
- Locate lost wills – If you have lost track of your lawyer and need to locate a will, the Law Society may be able to assist you.
- Changes to wills legislation – This WESA fact sheet, from the People’s Law School, summarizes changes introduced by the new Wills, Estates and Succession Act, implemented in 2014.
- Controlling your affairs as you get older – When I’m 64: Controlling Your Affairs, from the People’s Law School covers information regarding Wills, Powers of Attorney, Representation Agreements, and more.
- 10 common questions about wills and estates, and helpful answers from Clicklaw BC.
- Is a trust right for you? This BC Business article discusses considerations a person may make in assessing whether a trust is a good option for them.
- Arrange Funeral and Obtain Death Certificates
Consider ordering at least 3 original Death Certificates, which can be ordered through the funeral home.
- Notify of Death
- Canada Revenue Agency – income tax, GST/HST benefits, child tax benefits, etc.
Notify CRA at 1-800-959-8281 of the date of death as soon as possible, and send them a copy of the death certificate and a complete copy of the will or other legal document such as a grant of probate or letters of administration showing that you are the legal representative.
- Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS)
If the deceased was receiving OAS or CPP retirement pensions, disability benefits or survivor benefits, these must be cancelled. Benefits are payable for the month in which the death occurs; benefits paid after that will have to be repaid.
Complete an Application Kit which is available from any Service Canada Centre, 1-800-277-9914, and many funeral homes. Have the SIN on hand when you call.
- Service Canada – Social Insurance Number
Advise of the death to reduce the possibility of someone else using the deceased’s SIN. You will still be able to use the SIN for estate purposes.
Provide the SIN card and a copy of the Death Certificate to Service Centre Canada at the address below. If you do not have the SIN card but know the number, provide a Death Certificate with the SIN clearly written on it.
Notification in person
520 Seymour Street,
Kamloops, British Columbia, V2C 2G9
Notification by mail
Service Canada, Social Insurance Registration Office
P.O. Box 7000 Bathurst, New Brunswick, E2A 4T1
- Medical Services Plan (BC) – Contact to cancel MSP coverage, 1-604-683-7151(Vancouver) or toll free 1-800-663-7100.Website: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/topic.page?id=C331CE70072946C59276A8B4A936C08D
- Extended medical and pension plan – Contact to determine eligibility for continue benefit coverage for dependents.
- Bank accounts – Contact financial institutions to remove the deceased’s name from joint accounts and convert sole accounts in the name of the Estate and inventory safe deposit box.
- Life Insurance companies – Advise of death, and request claim forms and confirmation of benefits.
- RRSP / RIF accounts – Advise of death and arrange for transmission to successor.
- Post office – Notify post office and redirect mail to executor’s address.
- Passport Canada – Contact Passport Canada to cancel the deceased’s passport, 1-800-567-6868.Website: http://www.ppt.gc.ca/service/contact.aspx
- Veteran’s Affairs – Cancel any veteran’s benefits by contacting Service Canada or phoning 1-866-522-2122.Website: http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/contact
- Driver’s Licence – Cancel by phoning a local ICBC Driver Licensing Office. In Kamloops, B.C., phone 250-851-3700.Website: http://www.icbc.com/about-icbc/contact-us/Pages/default.aspx
- Senior’s Supplement or disability benefits – Cancel any by contacting Service Canada or phoning 1-800-277-9914.Website: http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/common/contactus/
- Vehicle insurance – Cancel and obtain storage insurance by telephoning AutoPlan or the insurance broker.
- Property Insurance – Obtain ‘vacancy’ insurance, if appropriate.
- Credit Cards – Contact credit card companies to cancel credit cards (and halt interest accruing if possible).
- Phone and Utility companies – Notify to change name on account and modify/cancel services if appropriate.
- Tax Returns
As the legal representative, you are responsible for filing a return for the deceased for the year of death. This return is called the Final return.
You also have to file any returns for previous years that the deceased person did not file. You have to file a T3 Trust Income Tax and Information Return, for income of the estate earned after the date of death, and for any trust created by the Will.
In all cases you are well advised to obtain a Clearance Certificate from CRA before making a final distribution of estate assets.
- Probate the Will or obtain a Grant of Administration (if no Will)
Probating an estate may or may not be necessary, depending on the nature of assets the deceased held at death. The probate process involves obtaining an Administration Grant (i.e. the Grant of Probate) recognizing the person appointed in the Will as the executor, or, in cases where there is no Will, appointing a person as Administrator of the estate. Executors and Administrators are now referred to as “Personal Representatives”.
After the Grant has been obtained, the Personal Representatives may call in (sell) estate assets, pay debts (including testamentary expenses, income tax and executor fees), pay legacies (gifts) and distribute assets to the beneficiaries of the Will (or according to the inheritance rules of the Province of British Columbia, in cases where there is no Will).
Lawyers frequently offer assistance to Personal Representative with the following estate administration tasks:
- drafting and filing the court documents necessary to obtain the Grant of Probate or Administration;
- selling land or removing deceased’s name from title to land where there is a surviving joint tenant;
- advertising for creditors;
- determining validity of claims against the Estate;
- preparing financial statements and obtaining approval by the beneficiaries; and
- obtaining Releases signed by the beneficiaries releasing the executor of Administrator from liability.
Executors are personally liable to the beneficiaries for their dealings with the estate.
Regardless of how diligent or competent the Personal Representative is, estate law is complex. Particularly if the estate involves blended families, estranged children, multiple beneficiaries, unusual or multiple assets, business interests, complex taxation issues, foreign property or beneficiaries, or minor beneficiaries, executors are well advised to retain a lawyer to advise them of the complexities and the law. The legal fees are paid for by the estate and the lawyer’s assistance can streamline the process and provide assurances to the executor and beneficiaries that the estate is being handled in a proper, legal and efficient manner.
If you have questions about the probate process, for help determining whether probate will be needed, or help determining whether you should hire an estates lawyer, contact our office to arrange a complimentary 30 minute consultation with an estates lawyer.
For more information please contact Leah Card
These suggestions apply to many estates but they may not all apply to the estate that you are administering.
- Arrange with the deceased’s bank to view and list the contents of the safety deposit box.
- Record all the expenses you incur in doing your job as Executor, including funeral expenses.
- List all the banks where the deceased had accounts or loans. Include the account numbers. For each account, request the balance and the interest accrued to the date of death. Collect any bank books or statements of account, and have them posted up to the date of death. Note that accounts may include term deposits, Registered Retirement Savings Plans, and Registered Retirement Income Funds.
- List all securities, stocks, or bonds owned by the deceased. Obtain the market value at the date of death.
- List all real estate which the deceased owned alone or with others. Also list any mortgages or agreements for sale that the deceased held or owed. Provide the full addresses of all properties. Have appraisals done, as of the date of death, on any properties that were not jointly owned.
- List all estate income that will be received after the date of death. This may include cheques that have not been received or deposited from pensions, deferred profit sharing plans, dividends, interest, salary, or any repayments or refunds due to the deceased.
- List any business assets or shares in a company owned by the deceased. Obtain appropriate valuations.
- Identify all people and businesses who owed money to the deceased. Provide any details you can of the nature of the debt and the amount owing.
- List any other assets, including cars, boats, household goods, jewellery, cameras, and other personal effects. Also list any digital assets that have value, such as online baking /payment systems currency (exe: PayPal credit, or credit with iTunes, loyalty rewards program points). Provide descriptions including serial numbers, if possible. Include estimated values.
- List all outstanding debts and liabilities of the deceased.
- List any agreements or court orders to which the deceased was a party, or under which the deceased was liable. This might include divorce decrees, maintenance orders, marriage agreements, Family Relations Act or Family Law Act orders, guarantees, buy-sell agreements, partnership agreements, leases, employment contracts, and insurance owned by the deceased on the life of another.
Please contact our office if you have any questions.