Making an estate plan before you die makes good sense. Managing what happens to your money and real property after you pass on can determine how your next-of-kin fare.
If you have:
- a disabled child
- young children at home
- a spouse or common law partner who lacks money management skills
- a small business to pass on
- a matrimonial home(s)
- real estate investments
- or complex financial investments
make estate planning a priority.
Even if your estate is modest, you owe it to your family and beneficiaries to plan ahead.
Dying Without a Will in Ontario
Many Ontarians have no Will when they die. Dying intestate without a Will delays how long it takes your estate to be distributed. If no estate trustee steps forward, Ontario courts may appoint a legal representative for you. Your estate could be distributed in ways you never intended or beneficiaries left without the resources they need to manage once you are gone.
When you die without a Will in Ontario:
- legally married spouses may get most of your estate
- separated spouses may inherit automatically, even if it's not your last wish
- common law partners may file dependant support claims in court
- other next-of-kin could be left out completely.
Creating basic estate planning documents gives you and your loved ones peace of mind. Axess Law estate lawyers advise you on distributing assets after death to reduce, eliminate or postpone probate and capital taxes and give your family the quality of life they deserve.
What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning arranges assets, charitable gifts and business interests in ways you want, for people or causes you care about the most. Estate planning lawyers help you plan ahead to make the most of personal or family assets, preserving, managing and distributing your estate after your death. Our experienced estate law attorneys prepare personal Wills, organize financial and personal papers, plan for minor children, dependants or if you are mentally incapacitated and designate estate trustees.
Estate Planning Documents Checklist
When you meet with an Axess Law Wills and estate lawyer, we find the best ways to plan your estate. Things to keep in mind:
Estate Trustee(s), Executors or Personal Representatives
Your most trusted advisor is who you choose to distribute your estate after death. Axess Law arranges appointments of estate trustees, executors or personal representatives (single or multiple, as you prefer) and substitutes who can take over if they resign or predecease you. Bring contact information for the advisors you want to represent you.
Wills and Power of Attorney
Your Will, any amendments (sometimes called codicils) and power of attorney documents. Axess Law has Wills and estates lawyers nearby who can draft a personal Will or amend it if you marry, separate, divorce, have children or assets change significantly. Our personal Wills start at just $199.99 or $249.99 if you also make a power of attorney for personal care or property.
Children under 18, aging parents or adult dependents can all have guardians appointed to protect them and their property upon your death. Axess Law's Ontario estate planning attorneys prepare the legal documents you need to appoint guardians.
Investments, Pensions and Survivor Benefits
Investment records and RRSP, RRIF, pension or bank statements help Axess Law's estate planning lawyers determine who benefits when you die. Cash and financial assets may be left to your estate, triggering probate taxes, or left tax free to beneficiaries.
Life Insurance Policies
Naming beneficiaries instead of your estate on life insurance policies bypasses probate taxes. When next-of-kin are estate trustees, they can use life insurance proceeds for immediate expenses like funeral services, probate taxes, property taxes or buying RRSPs or annuities for future retirement.
Real Property Titles
Legally married spouses have a right of survivorship to matrimonial homes, without having to go to court. Structuring titles to your property to include spouses makes it easy.
Planning and paying for funeral arrangements in advance can save your estate trustee and next-of-kin from making stressful decisions at an emotional time. Purchasing a burial plot or columbarium space, headstone or funeral services or including your wishes in your Will are part of a complete estate plan we prepare with you.
Making charitable gifts to an alma mater or favourite cause leaves a lasting legacy. Gifts to qualified charitable and non-profit organizations can be part of long-term estate tax planning with Axess Law.
Strategies to Grow Your Estate
You can make your estate worth more to beneficiaries by using strategies that reduce taxes and preserve assets. Axess Law Toronto area estate planning attorneys can advise you on structuring your estate to make the most of it.
1. Limiting Estate Taxes
Giving your children assets while you're alive passes tax liabilities along to them, instead of your estate. Your estate pays less taxes when you die, leaving more for beneficiaries to enjoy. The value of assets like cash or real estate is frozen on the transfer date, leaving you better able to calculate probate taxes and avoid capital gains taxes. Your beneficiaries only pay taxes if assets go up in value in future.
2. Gifting Cash
Gifting cash to children to buy a home or succeed in business reduces probate taxes and gives you the pleasure of watching your children reap the rewards.
3. Gifting Securities and Shares
Gifts of securities or shares in a family business when you have tax losses reduces potential tax liabilities. Your estate benefits when you minimize gains on "deemed dispositions" of assets that attract capital gains tax or take advantage of unused capital losses.
4. Creating Ontario Family Trusts
Trusts freeze the value of assets for tax purposes and give you control over your own assets. By appointing yourself trustee, you determine where assets go, not your estate trustee. Unlike testamentary trusts (assets in your will that go to heirs), living trusts or inter vivos trusts transfer assets during your lifetime. Because trust assets aren't part of your estate, you avoid probate taxes. Your beneficiaries can defer capital gains taxes until they dispose of the assets themselves or their own estate is distributed.
Booking Legal Appointments in Greater Toronto Area
Axess Law Wills and estate lawyers can meet you in person at any of our Greater Toronto Area law offices to go over estate planning strategies. Remote video conferencing lawyers are available 7 days a week, anywhere in Ontario. Book online or call our toll free 1-800 number for appointments.