Death and Taxes; we are all certain to experience both, and no one generally looks forward to either. Despite the fact that we dislike paying taxes, most of us will not consider options to legally reduce our tax burden. Similarly, despite the certainty of death, many of us will overlook the need make adequate plans for our property or our dependents.
There have many been recent changes in estate planning law with further changes still to come. The new Wills and Succession Act came into effect on February 1, 2012. This Act makes numerous changes that could affect the current wills and estate planning documents of many Albertans.
The Act consolidates five former pieces of legislation: the Wills Act; the Intestate Succession Act; the Survivorship Act; the Dependents Relief Act; and a portion of the Trustee Act. This was done in part to simplify the matters related to settling the estate of a deceased person.
The general principles of Alberta succession law will continue to be in force. Deceased individuals may dispose of their estates in any manner that they decide, with some exceptions. For example, one may have legal or contractual obligations, including the obligation to care for their dependents which may affect the deceased’s ability to do as they wish with their estate. If someone dies without a proper will, the legislation assumes that the deceased would want their family to benefit from their estate.
Further upcoming changes to the law may also have a major effect on the division of property in one’s estate upon death. People who have children with a partner other than their current spouse or Interdependent Adult Partner, farmers and small business owners must all be mindful of these changes to law. There is a great risk that the intentions of the deceased may not be followed as intended without updating one’s will. Other matters such as property that bypasses the estate, such as an insurance policy with a named beneficiary should also be discussed as these gifts may also result in a distribution of one’s estate which is far different than the deceased may have intended.
The new Act is apparently designed to simplify dispute resolution. Although, without proper estate planning this may not be the case. If you have previously prepared a will you should review it with a lawyer having consideration to the current changes in the law to ensure that it continues to represent your wishes. If you do not have a current will now is a good opportunity to consider preparing one. Failure to do so may result in your property and dependants being treated differently than you would want. Myself and the other lawyers at Stringam LLP are prepared to review your will and assist you with your estate planning needs.
Mark R. Baril practices in the areas of Family Law, Wills and Estates, Real Estate, Corporate and Personal Injury Law.