Debbie Elicksen is the author of our new book Business Cyberbullies and How to Fight Back. Her inspiration to write the book came from a personal experience she had with a former client turned cyberbully which she talks about below. Our hope is that through telling her story, she gives those of you dealing with online harassment the courage to fight back. For everyone else, let hers be a lesson to be proactive and learn about the simple steps you can take to protect your reputation online. Continue reading
As people live longer, healthier, more active lives these days, it is not at all unusual to see marriages between individuals in their 60s, 70s and beyond. If you are among these happy folks, it is important that you turn your mind to estate planning. Booking the honeymoon in the Bahamas or working on the guest list is a lot more fun than thinking about your eventual demise, but there are plenty of people in your life who are depending on you to get this right, legally and financially. Continue reading
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Changes took effect March 31, 2014 in British Columbia law affecting wills, estates and succession. We encourage you to visit the government website outlining the highlights of the legal amendments.
As the site indicates, the new Wills, Estates and Succession Act:
- Provides more latitude for courts to ensure a deceased person’s last wishes will be respected.
- Makes it easier to transfer the title of one’s spousal home when one’s spouse dies.
- Lowers the minimum age at which someone can make a will to 16 from 19.
- Clarifies the process of inheritance when a person dies without leaving a will.
- Clarifies property inheritance obligations in the context of Nisga’a and Treaty First Nations lands.
Below is a detailed summary of changes to the act, or visit the government website.
Note that the changes will not make a will written before the Act passed invalid, but it may change how that will is interpreted. For example, gifts to children during a will-maker’s lifetime will not be treated as advances out of the estate under the new law.
- Definition of “spouse” includes anyone in a marriage-like relationship for at least 2 years.
Intestacy (Dying Without a Will)
- No change where spouse survives without issue (now called “dependants”)
- If spouse survives with dependants, spouse receives household furnishings and spousal preferential share
- If all descendants are descendants of the intestate and the surviving spouse the spouse’s preferential share is $300,000
- If one or more descendants are not descendants of the surviving spouse, the spouse’s preferential share is $150,000
- After payment of spouse’s preferential share 1⁄2 residue goes to spouse and 1⁄2 is divided among descendants
- Personal Representative of the intestate is forbidden to dispose of spousal home for 180 days from death of intestate to allow surviving spouse time to decide if he/she wishes to purchase it
- If no spouse or descendants, all to the intestate’s parents equally
- If no parents then to descendants of parents
- If no spouse, descendants, parents or descendants of parents then to grandparents or descendants
- If no heirs, then to government per Escheat Act as before
Designations of Beneficiaries of Benefit Plans
- Benefits payable to designated beneficiaries in RRSP and Insurance plans are not part of the estate and not subject to claims of deceased owner’s creditors
- Marriage no longer revokes a will
- Legal age for making a will changed to 16
- Legal age for witnessing a will is 19
- Gifts to or appointment as executor of someone who at death of will-maker is no longer a spouse of the will-maker lapse because former spouse is deemed to have died before the will-maker
- Gifts to children during will-maker’s lifetime are no longer treated as advances out of the estate
- In common tragedies, the seniority presumption that oldest died first is repealed and replaced with presumption that each died before the other
- And, when joint tenants die in a common tragedy the property is deemed held in tenancy in common
- For gifts in a will, a beneficiary who does not survive the will-maker by 5 days is deemed to have died before the will-maker
A little update on the story that went live in local papers recently came with the announcement of the most recent of tragic and too-soon passings. Revealed last month was the will of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who shocked the world with his sudden death in February.
In it, he left his fortune to his ex-partner and mother of all three of his children along with explicit instructions on the caretaking of his eldest son. Though detailed, even down to the cities he’d like his son raised in, he made no mention of his two younger children.
While is can be surmised simply that Mr. Hoffman failed to update his will since its initial writing, it did raise some questions which I put to our Estate Planning expert Lynne Butler.
In Lynne’s popular book, ESTATE PLANNING THROUGH FAMILY MEETINGS, she addresses the consequences of not planning in Chapter 3, and the reasons why people don’t plan in Chapter 2. Further to this, and on her well-read blog, she specifically writes, “The problem with his will was that it was written in 2004.” Ms. Butler cites the tabloid knowledge that Mr. Hoffman had recently become estranged from the woman he left his fortune to.
“This raises the question of whether he would have still wanted to leave his estate to her, or whether he would have preferred to leave it in trust to his children” Ms. Butler explained.
We will never know his intentions, and sadly, his family is left to pick up the pieces of his loss and his fans to mourn his muted voice.
It does seem like it’s been a very bad time to be a famous person. We’ve witnessed too many untimely deaths lately and yet only a few of the recent famous and sudden passings were followed up with announcements of estates well planned out.
To understand the process of wills writing, I turned to noted author and academic Tom Carter. Mr. Carter is the legal instructor at The School of Business, MacEwan University in Edmonton and the author of WRITE YOUR LEGAL WILL IN 3 EASY STEPS.
Mr. Carter explained the nuts and bolts of wills with this; “Everyone already has a will. They just don’t know it.”
Mr. Carter went on to explain that every province in Canada has general rules for the distribution of your assets, and they typically go in the order of spouse, children, then parents. If there’s no spouse your assets automatically go to your kids. If there is no spouse or kids, everything you own, and everything you owe, automatically lands on your parents’ doorstep.
“Each province is different, but that’s the general rule.” Mr. Carter added.
What we learned from the recent release of Paul Walker’s will, was that he took the time to craft his plan for his daughter, even if he wasn’t there to raise her.
In a clean and well thought out estate plan, Mr. Walker left his entire estate to his grieving teenage daughter Meadow, and he left the management of those assets and the guidance of his only heir to his parents.
James Gandolfini’s will, on the other hand, left behind a predicament for his grieving children. In his will released in August of last year, just a few months after the actor’s shocking death, Gandolfini indicated different plans for his children from different marriages.
I talked with Emily Bouchard, the San Francisco based co-author of ESTATE PLANNING FOR THE BLENDED FAMILY, and she explained that Gandolfini’s decision was ‘fair but not equal’.
“To resolve the issue of the disparity between what he left his teenage son from his first wife and what he left his newborn daughter with his widow.” Ms. Bourchard said, “There might be private documents which explain to those children the difference in the estate plan.”
These are the estate planning cases which allow families to get a sense – or very clear direction – on where their loved one wished their assets to go, often during the emotional aftermath of their traumatic loss. However, what can we learn from those who didn’t plan for the worse?
Both 27 year old Amy Winehouse and 31 year old Cory Monteith died without wills, and in the case of Miss Winehouse, this caused her grieving parents to seek her assets through the court system.
What does this teach the average person who might not have the sizeable assets of a celebrity?
“Anyone who has assets and anyone who wishes for those assets to go to a loved one when they die, needs a will.” explained Mr. Carter.
Both Mr. Carter’s, Ms. Butler’s and Ms. Bouchard’s books can be found in major retailer and local bookstores across Canada on right here on the Self-Counsel website.
After a divorce or during a separation in Canada, parties may wonder whether changes to agreements are possible, and if so, how to go about them.
According to David Greig, author of The Separation Guide: Know Your Options, Take Control, and Get Your Life Back, this question comes up surprisingly frequently in divorce and separation cases because circumstances change: Kids grow up; parents get raises, lose jobs, or acquire assets; new spouses become part of the picture; or perhaps one person wishes to move away and this will affect child custody arrangements.
Greig advises that changing agreements is generally a tricky thing to do, especially when dealing with family law, as childrens’ needs change as they age, but laws governing the changing of agreements are not the same in all jurisdictions across the country.
In high-conflict separations and divorces, he says, every little thing should be put in writing. In more friendly arrangements, minor modifications may not need to be recorded each time; this kind of elasticity and cooperation is preferable, although sometimes not possible.
What should always be put in writing, no matter what, to protect your interests and those of any children going forward are major changes to custody or support.
In The Separation Guide, Greig points out some rules to remember no matter where you are in Canada when looking to change a court order:
- For the most part, only a court order can change an existing court order. Verbal agreements don’t count.
- Describe new agreements as variations or amendments to the original agreement and keep copies of everything together.
- The reason for the amendment should be clearly explained near the beginning of the amendment.
- Use the same language in amendments as was used in original agreements (for example, if “maintenance” is used in the original, don’t change it to “alimony” in the amendment).
Don’t get frustrated and throw out all the hard work you put into the original agreement if you hit a few speed bumps. You and your ex made one (or more) agreements before, so don’t panic, and keep at it. Chances are you can iron out the changes and come to an agreement once more.
Although many people likely don’t want to involve a lawyer unless absolutely necessary, if you are dealing with an acrimonious or contentious situation, or are unsure of any details of your existing agreement or new amendment, it is always wise to consult a professional.
Unless they’re rich and famous, and people are telling them to protect their cash and assets, the majority of people who are married or living common-law don’t have prenuptial agreements (“prenups”), cohabitation agreements, or marriage agreements in place. But with so many marriages ending in divorce, and so many relationships ending, period, is it smart to have some kind of contract?
If you haven’t heard of divorce parties yet, you likely will soon as the trend of celebrating a breakup grows. Divorce or breakup parties are a way to mark moving on, toast a new chapter in life, and say goodbye to the past in a positive way.
We have just learned that Canada Post no longer allows free change of address services for the administrator of a will. So if you are administering the will of someone, you will now need to pay the commercial rate to redirect the deceased person’s mail. This is an expense the administrator can charge back to the estate.
March 18, 2013: Changes to the Provincial Court (Family) Rules come into effect today, to bring it into conformity with the Family Law Act, which replaces the previous Family Relations Act today. There are also some changes to Rule 21 (Parenting After Separation Program).
Living together without marrying in British Columbia is going to become a lot more complicated on March 18, 2013. The BC Government will put into effect a new version of the Family Law Act on that day, changing what living together has meant in law for the past 35 years.