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Family Estate Planning

Did you know that most people don’t have a will or an estate plan because they are afraid of the cost of contacting a lawyer or they simply haven’t “gotten around to it yet”?

With the high costs of housing and raising a family there is no doubt that the last thing most people think about on a daily basis is their own mortality. Making a will and estate plan is something we simply do not think about.  As a result, estate planning often falls to the bottom of many people’s priority list.

There is also no doubt that for many people contacting a lawyer can be daunting and complex.  There is also no doubt that most people think that contacting or hiring  a lawyer will be expensive – which is certainly not always the case.  The truth is that while nobody really wants to think about death and incapacity, establishing an estate plan is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.

A Simple Will does not have to be Expensive

Before you contact a Hamilton Lawyer to make a will the first thing that you should know is that most lawyers normally either charge for their time or charge a flat rate for a will and estate plan. The reality is most wills could and should be billed at a flat rate.  99% of hardworking families in and around Hamilton do not need a complex estate plan. If you do not own multiple properties and you fall in line financially with the rest of the middle class population, then creating an estate plan should not be expensive. The cost of your will should be an flat fee or set price. Your will should be tailored to your individual life and wishes, properly witnessed and delivered at a cost that the average family or someone on a pension or fixed income can afford.  Making a will is not just for the wealthy…everyone should plan for the unexpected in life and protect the people that we love.

Families with Children Need a Will and Estate Plan

A large percentage of new or young parents are motivated to protect their children in the event of unexpected death. In Ontario, if you have full custody of your children, the Children’s Law Reform Act provides you with the right to appoint in your Will someone to have custody of your minor children.  Although the custody appointment in your Will only lasts for 90 days after it your passing, your wishes and intentions are made clear.  After 90 days, the guardians whom you appointed in your will must apply to the Court for permanent custody of your children. It is important to know and understand that other friends of family members are permitted to make an application for custody of the children to the Court during the 90 days period.  The Court will consider the parent’s wishes, but the best interest of the child will always be a Court’s main focus.

What Happens if You Die Without A Will in Ontario?

If you die without a will in Ontario you won’t get to name the Guardians of your kids in the event of your death.  You won’t be able to express your wishes as to how you would like your property divided. If you die without a will, there is a legislative procedure which tell us where and to whom your property will go to if you die without a will.  Your affairs will also take extra time to wrap up your estate. A personal representative will need to be appointed (Appointment of Estate Trustee without a will) which will give that person the authority to manage and distribute your estate. Unfortunately, if this happens – your property that you worked hard for may not be distributed how you would have liked. Your assets will be divided according to the Ontario Succession Law Reform Act which  sets out the procedure on how to divide property according to family relationship when someone dies without a will.

Our law are clear that unless someone who is financially dependent on the deceased person makes a claim against your Estate:

  • The first $200,000 is given to a deceased person’s spouse if there were no children.
  • If there were children and the estate is worth less then $200,000.00 – then your spouse will inherit your estate.
  • If you had children and you estate was worth more than $200,000.00 then the first $200,000.00 will be inherited by your spouse and the balance will be divided by your estate.
  • For example: if you had one child, the first $200,000.00 of the estate would go to your spouse. If you estate was worth $400,000.00, then the first $200,000.00 would go to the spouse, and the remaining $200,000.00 would be divided equally amongst the children. Your spouse in effect would get $300,000.00 with $100,000.00 going to your child
  • What if you had more than one child? Then the same calculation applies no matter how many children you have. If you had 2 kids and an estate worth $500,000.00, your spouse would be entitled to the first $200,000.00. The remainder is divided equally amongst the spouse and children – being $100,000.00 (1/3) going to your spouse and $100,000.00 to each kid (2/3).
  • No spouse or kids? Then you parents inherit your assets.
  • No spouse, kids or parents? Then your brothers and/or sisters inherit your assets.
  • No spouse, kids, parents or siblings? Then your Nieces or Nephews inherit your assets.
  • No spouse, kids, parents or siblings or nieces or nephews? Any next of kin inherit your assets, determined by counting upward from you to your nearest common ancestor and then downward to the relative.

What if you’re Sick or Hurt and can’t Make your Own Decisions?

Another reason why you should do an estate plan, whether you are a new mom or dad, middle aged or senior citizen – is in case you get sick and you can’t make your own decisions. In Ontario, if you get sick or hurt and you don’t have a plan in place then people may make decisions for you – and these are people you may not want to making decisions about your health, life, money and kids.  Who will decide on the medicine you take, what to feed your kids, access your bank accounts or even make decisions concerning keeping you alive?

Instead, our Hamilton Will Lawyers, as part of your will and estate plan, will ensure to prepare the appropriate documents, called powers of attorney, that will allow you to make the decision in advance about who will care for you and your assets should you become incapacitated. You will name a person you trust and care about that will make your health and financial decisions for you in case you get sick. Often times, this is a parent or spouse – along with another person either jointly or separately. This means if you appoint your spouse, then a parent, your spouse can wither make your decisions and if he/she is not available, then the decisions will default to your parent (or you can have both your spouse and parent make decisions together).

This is a vital part of a will and estate plan. It important that you do not let the law decide who can discipline your kids, sell your home or access your bank accounts and investments – because the law might appoint someone that you never would appoint, or more importantly, that you do not trust.  Remember – you are appointing someone, in advance, who will decide on your medical treatment, diet, housing, clothing, hygiene, safety, property, finances, bills and real estate if you cannot make those decisions for yourself.

Will and Estate Planning for our Personal Injury Clients

If you or your family have retained our Hamilton Lawyers to assist with any matter such as a serious personal injury, disability or wrongful death matter, we will surely discuss your estate plan options with you at the conclusion of your case. We are pleased to offer Estate Planning to all of our clients. Please do not hesitate to ask us.

Connect with a Hamilton Lawyer to Plan your Will Today

Lalande & Company Lawyers can help with your Will and Powers of Attorney.  Simply complete the contact form on this page or give our Hamilton Lawyers a call at 905-333-8888 today. We are happy to schedule a consultation or send you our Estate Planning Kit to complete and return to us. Remember – it is always better to hire and experience Hamilton will planning lawyer then trying to fill in a do-it-yourself will kit.