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Make a Will Month – What gifts can I give?

Make a Will Month – What gifts can I give?

November is Make a Will month in Canada – and this is my sixth and final blog post here for the Alzheimer Society. I would like to thank them so much for this incredible opportunity.  The work being done by the Alzheimer Society is incredible and so needed. Hopefully one day there will be a cure for this horrible disease. Now on to my post.

The law in Ontario is pretty wide open with regards to giving gifts of property in a Will.  You have almost complete discretion.  The vast majority of my married clients leave all of their property to their spouse with a gift over to their children with a further gift over to their grandchildren.  They often will pick out specific gifts to give to specific people.  This is not a required way to do things, it is just the most common.

In addition, my clients will often choose to give charitable gifts to registered charitable organizations like the Alzheimer Society, in order to take advantage of very favourable tax breaks the Canadian government provides.

When you speak to a lawyer or the planned giving departments of charitable organizations like the Alzheimer Society they can talk you through the various ways and the many benefits of including charitable giving in your Will.

When you have decided who is going to get what property, there are certain things you should keep in mind.

First, you are required to provide for your dependents. If you do not, the dependant has the right to bring a court action to essentially rewrite the Will. The court will look at the overall regime set up in the estate, and will only uphold a Will if it is of the opinion that it has sufficiently provided for the dependents.

Second, if a spouse is not satisfied with a Will, he or she can decide to ask for an equalization of property instead of taking under your Will.  This will likely thwart any plan to leave a spouse out of your inheritance.  It is therefore important to ensure that your spouse is reasonably provided for in your Will.

Third, there are ways to minimize your taxes, by structuring certain trusts, and appointing on your Life Insurance Policies and Designating Beneficiaries under certain registered plans like RRSPs and RRIFs.

Fourth – if your beneficiary might qualify for Disability Benefits under the Ontario Disability Support Program, there are certain trust options that are available, that can allow the beneficiary to continue receiving government assistance after receiving an inheritance.  Often people give gifts to disabled beneficiaries without taking into account the impact it will have on their government benefits.

Certain religions have specific requirements for gifts given in a Will. In most cases, those requirements can be met as long as dependents are looked after and the spouse does not elect equalization. Some religions have specific workarounds that are accepted by the religious authorities. Those items I defer to the religious leaders, but it is important for you to ask the question if that is important to you.

Other than that, there is pretty wide freedom for you to decide who gets what after your death. This freedom only exists if you take the time to make a Will. The alternative is for a government formula to decide who gets your property. It might work out the way you wish. It might not.

You do not need a lawyer to make your Will. There are online forms that you can fill out. That said, a lawyer can help guide you through the process in simple and easy to understand way.  A lawyer can make suggestions as to the most tax effective way to structure things. A lawyer will keep up with changes in the law as they occur to assist in making sure that your documents are up to date. A lawyer will make sure that you have not forgotten important things.

The process is NOT as expensive or time consuming as you may be imagining. The time and money invested in these documents such as your Will and Powers of Attorney is well spent; clients gain clarity and peace of mind.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about making your Will and Powers of Attorney. Finally, I would like to thank Sadie Etemad for her assistance in putting together these blog posts.

 

Written by:

Stephen Offenheim

Stephen Offenheim,
The Law Office of Stephen Offenheim
http://www.planyourwill.ca
(416) 863-1300
steve@planyourwill.ca

Make a Will Month – Powers of Attorney and Living Wills. What are they? Do I need one?

Make a Will Month – Powers of Attorney and Living Wills. What are they? Do I need one?

It’s Make a Will month.  As guest blogger for the Alzheimer Society this month, my focus has been on – you guessed it – Wills.

The importance of making a Will is clear. You get to choose who will get your property, who will be guardians of minor children, and who will manage the business of your estate.  This planning is important to determine what will happen after you die.

But what happens before you die? As the people at the Alzheimer Society know all too well, health and mental capacity sometimes deteriorates.  What happens when a person loses the capacity to make legally binding decisions?

Without proper documentation in place, a family dealing with a loved one’s loss of capacity often must begin expensive and time consuming legal procedures to obtain authority to make those decisions. This is a situation that is easily avoided, by putting the proper documentation in place while you do have capacity.

In Ontario, there are two different documents that should be created as a part of any comprehensive estate plan.  A Power of Attorney for Property and a Continuing Power of Attorney for Personal Care.

These documents allow you to make decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to make those decisions yourself. One for property and one for personal care decisions.

Like the appointment of Executors discussed in an earlier blog post, the Power of Attorney for Property can be quite dangerous in the wrong hands.  People can fraudulently access your property.  It is therefore absolutely essential that you appoint someone that you trust totally and completely. When I say totally and completely, I mean TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY. You are able to limit the powers in the document, but that makes it much less effective, and defeats the whole purpose of making the document, which is giving someone the power to deal with your property if you lose capacity.  The more limited the document, the more difficult it becomes to effectively deal with your property.

A Power of Attorney for Personal Care, is a document that allows you to appoint a person to make health care, housing, hygiene, and other personal care decisions on your behalf.  The document allows health care providers to easily determine who has the authority to give consent on behalf of the person who made the document.

Powers of Attorney are essential, because they are so simple, and avoid bringing expensive and time consuming court proceedings in order to manage a person’s affairs.

There are kits available online to prepare these documents.  The Alzheimer Society of Ontario also has an estate planner and guide available free of charge. I urge you to complete these documents immediately.

If you need assistance, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about how these documents work.    My law firm’s $699 Family Protection Plan for couples includes 2 Wills and 4 powers of attorney.   As mentioned in a previous blog, the time and money invested in these documents is well spent; clients gain clarity and peace of mind.

What if you have very specific ideas about how you would like your care to progress in the event that you are not able to give your own instructions? This is where Living Wills come into play. A Living Will (or advance health care directive) sets out binding instructions for your attorney for personal care regarding your treatment.

Without a Living Will, your attorney for personal care has full discretion to make decisions as he or she sees fit. It is up to that person.  If you have a Living Will in place, your attorney for personal care and health care professionals are required to follow your instructions.

Some people want to make a Living Will so that their decision maker has clear guidelines to follow. Some people do not want to make a Living will so that they do not tie the hands of their decision maker. It is a personal case by case decision.

A Will and estate lawyer can help you work through the process of powers of attorney and Living Wills. If you would like more information about this or any other Will and estate matter, please feel free to contact me.

 

Written by:

Stephen Offenheim

Stephen Offenheim,
The Law Office of Stephen Offenheim
http://www.planyourwill.ca
(416) 863-1300
steve@planyourwill.ca

Make a Will Month – Tips on how you can get ready

Make a Will Month – Tips on how you can get ready

It is Make a Will month in Canada, and I am thrilled to be able to guest blog here on the Alzheimer Society of Ontario’s website.  In a previous entry, I outlined the things you need to do to get ready to make your Will. One of the most important things you will do when you make your Will is to decide who will manage the business of settling up and closing your estate once you die – in other words, choosing your Executor.

The person(s) who you appoint to manage your estate is known as the “Executor” of your estate.

In general, your Executor is responsible for the following:

  1. Arranging your funeral;
  2. Paying your debts;
  3. Filing Taxes;
  4. Holding, managing, buying and selling property as is appropriate for the circumstances of your estate;
  5. Holding property in trust for minors; and
  6. Delivering the gifts to the beneficiaries set out in your Will.

 

An Executor does not need a high level of expertise as they can hire professional advisors to assist with legal and accounting matters.  However, your Executor should have a basic understanding of finances and should not be overwhelmed by financial responsibilities and paperwork.

Even more important than specific expertise is trustworthiness.  Since your Executor will have the authority to manage your finances, access your bank accounts, investments, etc., there is opportunity for mismanagement or fraud by the Executor. Unfortunately it happens more than we would like to think. APPOINT SOMEONE honest, reliable, considerate and confident who shares your values and can be held to his/her word.

When choosing your Executor, also keep in mind that it is not an easy task and your Executor may be forced to make unpopular decisions. Therefore you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • How will my Executor(s) deal with all of the paperwork required to complete my estate?
  • How will my Executor(s) communicate with my beneficiaries and other potential stakeholders, including various institutions, government agencies and professionals such as lawyers, accountants, etc.?
  • How will my Executor(s) hold up if faced with pressure from the beneficiaries?
  • How will my Executor(s) hold up, in circumstances of personal grief or personal financial difficulties?

 

Your Executor should be over the age of 18. It is preferable to have your Executor reside in the Province of Ontario if you are an Ontario resident. Non-resident Executors must purchase insurance bonds, which is an expense that will come out of your assets. There are also tax implications for non-resident trusts.

Finally, if you are facing difficulties in choosing an acceptable Executor, consider hiring an estate lawyer or a trust company to act as your Executor; it just might be the right thing for you.

Making your Will can feel overwhelming and stressful. I completely understand. This is why The Law Office of Stephen Offenheim (planyourwill.ca) is committed to making the process easy, and understandable.  For a free telephone consultation please contact me at steve@planyourwill.ca.   No question will be left unanswered.

 

Written by:

Stephen Offenheim

Stephen Offenheim,
The Law Office of Stephen Offenheim
http://www.planyourwill.ca
(416) 863-1300
steve@planyourwill.ca

 

November is Make a Will Month.  And this month YOU could be our Super Hero!   By doing your Will and including a charitable gift you can save taxes, protect those you care about and help save the world from dementia!   Act now!  Click here to request your free Estate Planner and Guide or call Kristy Cutten at 416-847-8915.

Make a Will Month – This is personal for me

Make a Will Month – This is personal for me

A few months ago, my cousin posted a wonderful video of my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. The year was 1994. My grandfather gave a wonderful, heartfelt speech about what his wife meant to him. The family did skits making fun of the onion sandwich he ordered on their first date. There was even Karaoke. Good times.

Alex & Clara dancing at their wedding.
Pictured above: Alex & Clara Offenheim at their 50th wedding anniversary.

While the first 50 years of marriage were wonderful for my grandparents, the years that followed for them and for our family were extremely challenging. Shortly after this celebration, my grandfather Alexander was diagnosed with a form of dementia. With his loyal wife Clara by his side, he slowly deteriorated over a 10-year period. It was absolutely heartbreaking watching a man with such wit, and intellect slowly become someone else.

Then shortly after my grandfather passed away, my grandmother was diagnosed with a form of dementia. She is now well into her 90s, and has maintained all of her class and dignity. It has been so difficult for our family to go through this more than one time.

That said we are so lucky that my grandparents had the foresight to prepare. While they had the capacity to do so, they both had prepared their Will and powers of attorney. Everything was set up in accordance with their wishes. The Will appointed executors and beneficiaries for their property. A power of attorney appointed family members to act as their substitute decision maker for matters of property and for matters of personal care.

By taking the time to do so, our family avoided the expensive court procedures associated with guardianship applications. There was no need to purchase expensive insurance or bonds that would have been required had the documents not been in place. We have saved money on lawyers, and saved so much of the aggravation and heartache that goes along with unplanned estates.

This is why I was so thrilled when the Alzheimer Society asked me to guest blog for Make a Will month. I am so passionate about making sure that people have the proper documentation in place. I know firsthand how important this is.

Over the course of this month, I will be providing you with information about what goes into making a Will. What are the things you need to consider? What are some of the traps you can fall into? If there is one message I would like send out to everyone, is that doing these documents CANNOT WAIT. It is way too important.

You may be thinking that doing a Will is expensive and time-consuming. Fees can vary greatly depending on the complexity of your Will and where you live. For example, for a straight forward Will, my law firm charges $399 for a Will and two powers of attorney, with a full consultation with a lawyer. ($699 for a couple). And it does not take very long. Most of my clients take about 3-5 hours in total to complete everything that needs to be done.

Completing these documents is so necessary. Please don’t delay; if you need information right away, there are a number of ways to reach me.
Call me now at (416) 863-1300.
Or send me an e-mail now at steve@planyourwill.ca
Or follow this link to set up a free 15 minute phone consultation or a 2 hour Will instruction session.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you come back during the month of November to read important information for doing your estate plans. Your reward? Getting into action to protect your family, your assets, and gain peace of mind.

 

Written by:

Stephen Offenheim

Stephen Offenheim,
The Law Office of Stephen Offenheim
http://www.planyourwill.ca
(416) 863-1300
steve@planyourwill.ca

If you have a Will, you need to read this

If you have a Will, you need to read this

New Federal Estate Planning Legislation

Make a Will Month (November) may be officially over, but this year we are still encouraging Ontarians to review their Estate plans because of new rules! On December 16, 2014, the Conservative government made amendments to the Income Tax Act, which impact the Will and estate planning process. Both amendments begin in 2016. Check your Will – you may need to take immediate action!

Amendment – Charitable Gifts – Three year Graduated Rate Estate

Right now, charitable gifts in your Will result in tax credits that can be used against taxable income in the year of death and in the year before it. Your Executor/Trustee uses these credits to reduce or eliminate taxes in the year of death or claw back taxes paid from the previous year.

The new rule states that all charitable gifts stated in your Will must be made within three years of the date of death or the valuable charitable tax credits can no longer be used. Your gift will still stand, and the charity will issue the tax receipt; however, if the tax receipt is dated more than three years after death, it cannot be used to reduce your taxes.

What you need to do: If you are considering or have included a charitable gift in your Will, please ensure that your Executor/Trustee is aware of the new rules so you get the best possible tax breaks

Amendment – Spousal Tax Liabilities – Spousal Trusts, Joint Partner Trusts, Alter Ego Trusts

The Income Tax Act says that all individuals are to have “disposed” of their capital assets upon death, even if they have not sold any of them. The government calls this a “deemed disposition” and it can lead to a large capital gains tax for the estate.

Under the old rules, the taxes from a “deemed disposition” must be paid by the estate of the deceased person, which makes sense as the assets belong to the estate. Sometimes, these assets are not liquid, meaning cash flow can become an issue for the remaining spouse. In the past, a Will could direct a spousal trust be set up to ensure the well-being of the remaining spouse and the taxes could be deferred until the surviving spouse passes away.
The new rules make the spouse pay these taxes. This new rule is dramatic as the ownership of the assets still remains in the first estate and imposes a tax liability onto a person who does not own them.

Action: If you have a trust in your existing Will please seek professional guidance as soon as possible.

Please note that a number of technical submissions from law firms and accountants have been made to the new Federal Government on the inherent unfairness of these new rules. Stay tuned!

Learn more about Will planning on our website.

IMG_4846 (edited)-2Colleen Bradley

Chief Development Officer, Planned Giving

Alzheimer Society of Ontario

What do you want YOUR legacy to be?

What do you want YOUR legacy to be?

For those of us working for a charity, the word “legacy” means a thoughtful charitable gift, a gift left in your Will. But there could be another meaning: how did you show up in the world?

In other words, aside from the dollars distributed from your estate, how do you want to be remembered? What do you want YOUR legacy to be?

How do you show up in the world? Most of us strive to be the best possible person we can in daily life. We aim to be productive, giving, and caring people who cause as little pain as possible to others when travelling on our own path. Some of us volunteer; others donate to important causes.

What do you want YOUR legacy to be? I was recently asked this question by our CEO, Chris Dennis. In the 26 years that I have been working in the charitable sector in estate planning, this was the first time I had ever been asked that question! So I have to admit, I needed a moment to reflect.

When speaking with donors who want to give a charitable gift in their Wills, I usually ask that early in our conversations. So I asked myself more of the same questions I pose to donors: What’s important to you? What are your core values, the beliefs you have woven into the fabric of your daily living? What do you think your purpose is for being here? And perhaps the most interesting question of all was: What’s missing? Is there anything else you could be doing while you’re healthy, happy and alive?’

Getting back to Chris a few days later, I said I wanted to create a Centre of Fundraising Excellence at the Alzheimer Society as part of my legacy. If I was going to take on the responsibilities of Chief Development Officer, I wanted to build a strong foundation of revenue to fight our foes of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. I wanted to educate people on why they need to overcome procrastination and complete their Powers of Attorneys and Wills. And I wanted to work with a team that strove to be the best.

When I reflected on my personal life, I know I have fallen a bit short of my goal of ensuring that the people I care for most know of how much I love and appreciate them. Yes, I tell my family and friends that I love them all the time, but I believe “deeds speak.” I noticed that there is room for improvement in my actions there and other areas too. And then it hit me: my legacy is a work in progress. I create my legacy moment by moment, day by day, by being intentionally aware of what I am creating, and who I choose to create it with.
So what do you want YOUR legacy to be?

I’d like to invite you to consider your personal legacy. How do you show up in the world? How do you treat yourself, others, your communities, and the planet? What gets in your way? What would it take to align your beliefs and words with simple actions? Your actions today, like completing an estate plan, can ensure others will be protected and thrive long after you leave this earth.

I invite you to create a strong personal legacy that includes cherished memories along with the dollar legacy you leave in your estate plans. Because in the end, it will be how people ‘remember’ us that will truly matter.
If you would like to share your thoughts on this blog, please email me at cbradley@alzheimeront.org.

Learn more about Make a Will Month.

IMG_4846 (edited)-2Colleen Bradley

Chief Development Officer, Planned Giving