Proper estate planning is crucial. It is surprising how many individuals delay the execution of, or never execute, a will or other testamentary instrument. In the event an individual dies without a written estate plan the Succession Law Reform Act will determine not only who will administer an estate, but also who will be entitled to the deceased's assets. This often leaves the estate open to claims from those who expected to receive a portion of the estate or from those who have a valid claim against the estate.
Often when confronted with a serious illness or life threatening circumstances, individuals will prepare their own wills. These are sometimes declared invalid as they fail to comply with legal requirements or the individual is found to have lacked the capacity to make such a will, or has been unduly influenced. Quite often such wills are ambiguous, requiring a court to review and interpret the will in an attempt to ascertain the testator's intention. This litigation is time consuming and expensive.
Having a qualified professional prepare such estate planning documents including a will, powers of attorney, trusts and other testamentary instruments can avoid these problems. In addition, the professional can provide advice and direction to ensure that taxes are minimized or in some cases avoided on death. The professional will also help to ensure that precautions are taken to reduce the chances that a beneficiary can upset the testator's estate plan, and to ensure that details of the testator's assets remain outside of the public domain.
The cost of properly prepared wills, powers of attorney and other such documents is modest compared to the cost of litigation and unnecessary taxes if no plan is put in place or if such documents are found to be deficient or invalid