Are you ready to get your affairs in order? Are you concerned about the legacy you’ll leave behind?
The estate planning lawyers at Merchant Law are ready to help you plan your estate. With our help, you can protect your legacy and ensure those who are most important to you receive the assets you’ve worked so hard for after you die. We can even speed up the process of getting those assets into the hands of your chosen heirs and beneficiaries.
Reach out to schedule your estate planning appointment today. This is one of the most important actions you may ever take, especially if you are a high net worth individual who has worked hard to make good financial decisions all your life. Don’t neglect the most important financial plan you’ll ever create: the one that preserves your hard work for future generations.
What happens if you die without a will in Regina, SK?
Dying without a will is known as dying intestate, and in Saskatchewan it’s governed by the Intestate Succession Act.
When you die intestate, the court appoints an administrator to distribute your assets, and a Public Trustee for any trust funds that would be held for minor children. This can create additional inconvenience for your family and delay their ability to claim their inheritance.
The assets are then distributed as follows:
- If you and your spouse have children in common, and you have no children from any other marriage, 100% of the estate goes to your spouse or common law partner. Your spouse also gets everything if the value of the estate is less than $200,000.
- If you have children from a previous marriage the estate either goes half to your spouse and half to your child, or, if there are more than one children, ⅓ to the spouse and ⅔ to your children.
- Grandchildren are up next, or great-grandchildren. The Act tracks descendents.
- If you have no spouse and no descendents the estate goes to your parents.
- If your parents aren’t alive it will go to your brothers, sisters, nieces, or nephews.
If you don’t have brothers, sisters, nieces, or nephews then the estate goes to the next-of kin that that the courts can find.
Note that “children” refers to natural-born or adopted children, and not to step-children. If you want to provide for step-children, or if you want to allocate your assets differently, then you’ll need the help of an estate planning lawyer. The same is true if you want to make provisions for anyone who is not a blood relative.
When must assets go through probate in Regina, SK?
The probate process confirms the validity of a will. It also gives the executor the power to administer the estate. Probate is not always necessary, though will usually be required either by financial institutions holding on to the decedent’s accounts or by the province when you own land here in Saskatchewan.
Some people prefer to keep as many assets out of probate as possible. Estate planning makes it possible to meet this goal. Jointly owned assets pass directly to the person who owns the property. Life insurance beneficiaries receive their money without passing through probate. You can also set up trusts to pass outside of the estate.
Who needs a formal estate plan?
It is possible to create a legal will in Saskatchewan without working with a lawyer, though it isn’t always wise. A simple will may not be enough to meet your estate planning needs. In addition, a poorly worded or incorrectly written will can still create complications for your heirs.
All high net worth individuals should consider engaging with the formal estate planning process. You should also consider engaging in estate planning if you are a business owner, own income-bearing real estate, or own income-bearing intellectual property of any kind.
Those who have been married more than once will also often face specific issues that require a higher degree of estate planning. If you want to provide for step-children you will need to stipulate those provisions in your will. You will also need a formal estate plan if you want to support other relatives who wouldn’t normally be in the line of succession, or if you want to give any part of your estate to charity.
Most people will want and need at least a little bit of legal guidance when putting their will together.
What should you bring to your estate planning appointment?
You should bring every document stating the value of any asset you own, as well as any document which proves ownership of that asset, such as titles and deeds. You should also bring the contact information for all beneficiaries, as well as identifying information like date of birth and social insurance numbers.
There are two conversations you should have before your estate planning appointment, as well.
The first is with the person you would like to be the executor of your estate. You will need that person’s permission in order to secure them as your executor. Sometimes this person can be your lawyer, and if that’s something you’re interested in you should indicate that to us when you call.
The second is for people with minor children. You’ll want to reach out to whomever you’d like to name as your child’s guardian in the event that you and your spouse can’t be there. Again, you’ll need their permission to name them and to ensure they actually carry out their duties in this regard before you name them in your will.
You’ll need to bring contact information for each of these people, as well.
How much does it cost to put together an estate plan?
Putting together an estate plan is highly affordable. We can usually get them done for anywhere from $300 to $3000. We can also usually get them done very fast, often in less than a week.
Every three to five years you will want to meet with your lawyer to update your estate plan, just to be sure that your estate plan continues to accurately reflect your financial reality. You should also update your will or estate plan any time you have a major life event, such as a divorce, separation, marriage, or death in the family.
Reviewing your estate plan periodically also lets you update contact information for your beneficiaries, or change your beneficiaries if necessary.
What is the difference between a will and an estate plan?
A will is one of many documents that will make up your estate plan. It’s one of the most important documents, but it’s not the only one.
A thorough estate plan may also include life insurance policies, trusts, buy/sell agreements, succession planning for your business, and joint ownership so that you can pass some assets outside of the estate.
Estate plans also include provisions for when you’re incapacitated, such as guardianship orders that allow you to appoint someone as a guardian should old age strip you of the capacity to manage your own affairs, or power of lawyer documents which allow these individuals to make medical decisions on your behalf.
A seamless estate plan will ensure the distribution of assets happens very smoothly for your heirs after your death. It involves making a number of strategic decisions and choosing the right legal vehicle to execute those decisions.
What is a trust?
A trust is a legal instrument which holds assets on your behalf and creates a fiduciary relationship between you and a trustee, a person who manages these assets.
Trusts are useful for estate planning for a number of reasons. First, the take ownership of the assets and protect them. Second, if you set up a living trust, vs. a testamentary trust, those assets will pass directly to the beneficiaries of the trust upon your death, without having to go through probate.
Trusts also allow you to do some things that wills don’t. You can’t write conditional gifts into a will. You can set conditions on when money in a trust can be used. For example if you want to designated that the money in a trust be used only for education purposes then the trustee will only release the money to your heirs when they want to go to school. If you want to meet monthly living expenses instead of releasing a bunch of money in a lump sum, then the trustee will only release money on a monthly basis, per your wishes.
There are some conditions you can’t legally set on a trust, but they’re an incredibly flexible and useful legal vehicle for managing your assets. They must be set up correctly to do the job they were meant to do. Speak to your lawyer if you are interested in setting up a trust.
Who can challenge a will in Saskatchewan?
Dependents or a spouse may challenge a will. They may usually do so only if the will-maker didn’t make provisions for them, as in Saskatchewan a will-maker is considered to have an obligation to provide for children. The courts may alter wills when they find that the willmaker has failed to make adequate provisions.
They may also challenge will on the grounds that the most recent version of the will was invalid due to being influenced by intimidation, duress, fraud, or other coercion. Wills may also be challenged if it’s found that the decedent did not have enough mental capacity to fully understand their decisions when changing the will. For example, a will-maker who has dementia and changes their will may open that will up to challenge.
Wills may also be challenged if they weren’t legal or valid in the first place, or that it was forged or fraudulent in some way.
Wills may not be challenged simply because someone doesn’t think the will is fair, because they were promised things they didn’t get, or because they believe the will-maker made some sort of verbal promise to them which they were hoping to see honored.
When the will is challenged courts may vary the will, revert back to an earlier version of the will, or invalidate the will entirely in favor of treating the entire estate as an intestency estate. Working with a lawyer can keep you from planning your estate in ways that open it up to challenge, and increases the chances that your wishes will be honored when the time comes.
Why choose Merchant Law for your estate planning needs?
For over 30 years, we’ve served Saskatchewan residents with solid estate planning advice. Our award-winning lawyers are responsive and savvy. Many of our lawyers also have a background in real estate law, business law, and civil litigation, ensuring that we can draw on a broad range of experience when we work with you to put your estate plan together.
Life is unpredictable. Don’t leave the disposition of your estate to chance. Call (306) 359-7777 to schedule an appointment today. Our team is standing by and ready to help.
We have offices in both Regina and Saskatoon, but we serve clients throughout the entire province. We also offer remote appointments for your safety and convenience. If you live in Saskatchewan, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our estate planning lawyers are ready to help.