Being Prepared: Wills and Powers of Attorney

The COVID-19 virus has changed the world. We live in uncertain times now. On the one hand we need to self-isolate and separate ourselves from each other. On the other hand we must not forget we are in this together and need to reach out and help each other.

Over the last little while many of our clients have spoken to us about ensuring that all personal matters are resolved in order to have peace of mind, particularly in the event that something should happen that was unexpected.

At this time it is essential that you evaluate your situation in light of current circumstances. There are a number of issues that you should consider in order to ensure that your house is in order.

Do you have a will?

If you do, is it up to date and does it represent your current situation or state of affairs? It is very important especially if you have very young children to have your wills completed — not so much the money part, but the part about instructions around resolution regarding custody if something happens to both parents. Make sure this is very clear. A will also stops sibling disputes, takes care of who will look after children, keeps the government out of your affairs, allows for an orderly disposition of everything from your favourite cuff-links or earrings to your realty, stocks and bonds. It will allow you to determine if you are to be cremated, buried or quick frozen.

You may not be aware of it, but in Ontario you have the opportunity, should you have investments in private corporations or significant personal property, i.e. boats, trains, planes, jewelery, art, etc., to have two wills. The primary will undergoes the usual probate or administrative process and would be subject to the fees charged by the province but the secondary or non-administered personal property will is exempt from that process.

Maybe you own real estate and it should be transferred to a holding company and a family trust set up as a planning concept. Perhaps you need to structure your business to take into account succession and tax planning.

Often an entrepreneur starts a business, owns all the shares in his corporation and it is extremely successful. Time passes, the value increases, the owner wishes to bring his or her children into the business but there are tax impediments to doing so. Now is the time, while we are preparing our personal matters, to review everything and plan for the future. There are tax planning techniques fully approved by the government that will solve these issues.

What about Powers of Attorney?

A power of attorney is used when you are physically or mentally incapacitated and there are two kinds. The first is for your body, i.e. what care will you, or will you not, receive? Your representative appointed pursuant to a power of attorney for your health matters will determine that together with your physicians. This is particularly important for older people with respect to their mental health.

The other is for the management of your financial affairs. What if you broke both your arms and cannot sign a cheque or you are otherwise incapacitated and someone has to pay your bills, make deposits etc.?

The most important thing to do is to achieve peace of mind. In these times of turmoil and uncertainty, now is the time to prepare a will and powers of attorney. Speak to a lawyer and an accountant with tax experience and plan for the future. Let us all look forward to getting past the current troubles and continuing our lives with certainty.

On behalf of all of us here at Schwarz Law LLP we wish you and your families health and safety. Move forward with a positive view but as I used to tell my son when he played hockey and went into the corners, keep your head up and recognize the potential threats.

Perhaps the most difficult part of writing these articles relates not the actual writing, but thinking of a topic to address. So help me! Send your questions to us or the magazine, use the website schwarzlaw.ca, email me at info@schwarzlaw.ca and give us your questions, concerns, critiques and quandaries. I will try to deal with them in print or electronic form.

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