Are you absolutely sure your assets will go where you intend for them to go after your death? If you have a complicated asset profile or a high-value estate it’s a good idea to invest in estate planning services. Otherwise all your hard work may turn out to be for nothing after you die.
Don’t leave the disposition of your estate to the courts. Take advantage of estate planning services from Merchant Law. We’ve helped hundreds of Alberta residents get their affairs in order. We can ensure that your wishes are honored when you are gone.
Do you need an estate plan?
If you have any significant assets it’s usually a good idea to invest in an estate plan. The same is true if you’ve had any life complications which can turn a simple will into an unsuitable tool for your needs.
Some examples of individuals who need a complex estate plan include:
- Those with assets worth more than $250,000.
- Those who own multiple pieces of real estate.
- Those who have been married more than once, especially if there are children from multiple marriages, or step-children.
- Those who want to give their estates to charity.
- Those who own a business, or multiple businesses.
- Those who own income-bearing intellectual property.
- Anyone who has minor children.
- Anyone who is not absolutely certain they understand how to navigate the estate planning process.
- Anyone who wants to plan for anyone who is a distant relative or unrelated.
If you recognize yourself in any of the above scenarios it’s time to make an estate planning appointment ASAP.
What happens if you die without a will in Red Deer, AB?
When you die without a will in Alberta, also known as dying intestate, the courts distribute your assets according to the provisions laid out in the Wills and Succession Act of Alberta.
Assets are distributed in the following order:
- If you have a spouse or common law or adult interdependent partner with children in common, this person gets everything.
- If you have children from a previous marriage the spouse gets 50% of your assets and your children (natural-born or adopted) get the rest.
- Grandchildren, if children are deceased.
- More distant next-of-kin
The estate only goes to the province if no blood relatives can be found.
Nevertheless, for most people the “default” distribution of assets is not ideal. It cuts out step-children, business partners, friends, or charities you might want to donate to. If there is someone in your family who really needs financial support it risks depriving them of that support.
Most people prefer to distribute their assets themselves with the help of a properly crafted will or estate plan.
What should you bring to your estate planning appointment?
To get your estate planning done as smoothly as possible it’s important to get all of your paperwork ready before you arrive. It’s also important to have conversations with certain individuals prior to your appointment.
- Who will serve as the executor of your will? Have they you their permission to name them? Bring this person’s name, address, and phone number. You can name your lawyer, with your lawyer’s consent.
- If you have minor children, who will serve as their guardian? Have you obtained permission from this person to name them? Again, bring this person’s name, address, and phone number.
- Bring financial documents such as tax returns and bank statements for all accounts. This includes checking, savings, retirement accounts, investment accounts, CDs, and any other accounts you have open.
- Deeds for all real estate that you own. If you have tenants, bring profit and loss statements for those properties.
- Bring titles for all vehicles, boats, and RVs.
- If you have a business, bring your business agreements and P&L statements.
- Bring stock and bond certificates.
- Bring licensing agreements or royalty agreements for intellectual property.
- Bring any other paperwork that proves ownership of any other asset you wish to include in your will.
- Your debts will be paid out of your estate before your estate is closed, so bring copies of all debt statements, too.
Don’t be afraid to bring any document that you think might help your lawyer do a good job of distributing your estate.
Finally, you will need to put together a list of your desired beneficiaries. You’ll need to include contact information for all of those individuals. To help your executor find them in the event that they move before your will can be updated, it’s a good idea to add identifying information for these individuals, such as their DOB and social insurance number.
Finally you should sit down and consider what your wishes actually are so that you can share your goals with your lawyer. Bring a list of your questions and your concerns so that your estate planning appointment can be as productive as possible.
Be aware that you should be reviewing your will every three to five years to make sure that it continues to match your financial situation.
Does a will keep your assets out of probate?
Assets aren’t probated, wills are. Probate is the process of validating a will and authorizing its execution. If a will can’t be found or authorized, probate is the process that allows the courts to begin distributing the assets according to the Wills and Succession Act, after a suitable administrator gets appointed.
Avoiding probate isn’t always desirable. Sometimes it’s the very process that will protect your estate from a challenge. Nevertheless there are ways to pass some assets to some beneficiaries instantly, so long as the proper vehicles are used.
It’s also worth knowing that Alberta probate fees are some of the lowest in Canada: $525 or less depending on the value of your estate. The fees will be taken from your estate; your heirs shouldn’t have to write any checks to the courts.
How much does it cost to make a will?
We can typically craft an estate plan and draft a will for $300 to $3000 depending on the value and complexity of your estate and wishes. We can also typically get all of your affairs in less than a week.
Putting together an estate plan is both affordable and convenient. It’s just a matter of sitting down and facing the reality of your own death, then getting your paperwork together to ensure the people who are most important to you are prepared.
What’s the difference between a will and an estate plan?
A will is the most important component of most estate plans, but it’s often only a component. Wills communicate your wishes for how you would like to see your assets distributed after death. An estate plan can include many other vehicles for protecting and distributing those assets.
For example, purchasing a life insurance plan is a vital part of the estate planning process. Succession planning for your business is another vital part of the process. In some cases, setting up joint ownership agreements on real estate or putting together certain kinds of trusts can be an important part of the process.
For example, it’s not always desirable to hand a lump sum of money to an heir. If you have a disabled family member you want to take care of it might be better to set up a trust that will distribute that money in small sums on a monthly basis over the course of that person’s life so that they can get their day-to-day needs met.
The way that you plan your estate will depend entirely on what you’re attempting to accomplish with it. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that all estate plans look the same, or can be handled with a single document.
What are trusts and how do they work?
A trust is a type of account that contains certain assets. You can put all sorts of things into a trust: money, property, or any other type of asset you can think of. Trusts are managed by an individual known as a trustee, a person who has a fiduciary duty to the beneficiary of the trust and who is responsible for managing it.
Different types of trusts are suitable for different reasons. For example, you can set aside a trust specifically to pay for someone else’s medical expenses, ensuring they can only use the money you’ve left them for that specific purpose.
Trusts may either be designated as testamentary or living trusts. A testamentary trust passes to the beneficiaries upon your death, once the will has been probated. A living trust passes directly to your beneficiaries. There are different scenarios in which one kind of trust may become more appropriate than the other.
Who can challenge a will, and why?
In Alberta, wills may only be challenged in specific circumstances, and by specific people.
The following individuals may challenge your will:
- Your spouse, common law partner, or adult interdependent partner.
- Adult children.
- Someone who has a proven financial interest in the estate.
- Your own lawyer, if it’s in your interests to do so.
- The Public Trustee.
Wills can’t be challenged because they seem unfair, or because the deceased made some sort of verbal promise the challenger was counting on. Wills may only be challenged under the following circumstances:
- You have dependents and you failed to make adequate provisions for their support.
- The latest version of your will was made at a time when you did not have the mental or physical capacity to understand the implications of the changes you were making.
- There is reason to suspect you were a victim of intimidation, harassment, or fraud at the time that you changed the will.
- Your will is not legally valid.
- It is impossible to carry out the provisions of your will.
- Your wishes are vague, or unclear.
When a will is challenged successfully, one of the following things will happen:
- The courts will revert to an earlier version of your will if one exists.
- The courts will adjust the distribution of your assets according to provisions allowed for under the Wills and Succession Act.
- The court will completely invalidate your will, and will distribute your assets just as if you had died intestate.
Working with a lawyer helps to protect your estate from these kinds of challenges. Your lawyer can ensure your will is valid, legal, and clear. Your lawyer can also verify that you were physically and mentally capable enough to handle your estate planning at the time when the latest version of your will was written, and can keep all of your will versions on file so they’re readily available and easily found.
Why choose a Merchant Law estate planning lawyer?
For over 30 years the lawyers at Merchant Law have been Alberta’s choice for complex matters of every kind. We’ve worked with thousands of entrepreneurs, business owners, and high net worth individuals to help them put together an estate plan that serves their needs.
Many of our lawyers are well-versed in business law, real estate law, and civil litigation. We are well-suited to help you solve complex asset planning problems.
Make an appointment with one of our responsive, caring lawyers today. Call (403) 237-7777 to get started.
We have offices in Airdrie, Calgary Bowness, Calgary, Cochrane, Red Deer, and Edmonton, but we serve the entire province. We offer secure, remote appointments for your security and convenience. If you’re an Alberta resident, we can help. Contact us today to get started.