Estate Planning Lawyers in Vancouver

Vancouver Wills & Estate Planning Lawyers

If you already understand the importance of estate planning but don’t know where to start, it helps to have a team of estate planning professionals to walk you through the process.

Everyone’s estate planning needs are slightly different. Templates sometimes help initially but they may not be legally enforceable and do not take into account your unique financial circumstances that will affect tax payments and other important details.

It’s never too early to start with your estate plan. As you will see, you can begin in your twenties.

The experienced estate planning lawyers at Spectrum Family Law can help you create a will, power of attorney, and trusts – and we can assist with administering and probating wills, as well as aged care, living wills, and incapacity planning.

When should you begin estate planning in Vancouver? 

Estate planning in your 20s

Vancouver Estate Planning and Dispute LawyersJust because you have few assets doesn’t mean that you can’t plan for when you do.

Very few young Canadians think about estate planning this early in life but those who do rarely regret it.

If you were to suffer an untimely death due to the negligence of another party, a wrongful death claim filed by family members could be worth significant amounts to your estate. Knowing that these assets would then be distributed according to your wishes can bring peace of mind. 

Also, anyone can become incapacitated at any time through an injury, illness, or an accident, so it is important to cover for this eventuality. 

Estate planning is not just for when you pass away. It can help authorize a next of kin, such as a spouse or parent, to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf, if you are unable to do so. This is another reason to start planning early in life.

Estate planning in your 30s and 40s

Often, people in their 30s or 40s start to accrue significant assets, having been in the workforce for a good number of years. 

Many have also started families or been married, divorced and remarried.

If you have property, savings, pensions, and other investments, it is important to start thinking about how these would be distributed to your loved ones in the event of your death. 

If you made an estate plan before and your circumstances have since changed, it’s crucial to update your documents.

How will you protect those who depend upon you, should something unexpected happen?

How will you make decisions if you become incapacitated?

These affairs can be managed with the help of legally binding documents prepared by one of our estate planning lawyers.

Estate planning in your 50s (and older)

By the time you reach your 50s, you will have likely accumulated significant assets and are already thinking about retirement.

Everything you have now will someday need a new home – and the time to start thinking about this (if you haven’t already) is now.

Estate planning documents you made earlier in life may need updating if your circumstances have changed.

You may want to appoint different beneficiaries or start to think about power of attorney arrangements, as well as incapacitation planning and aged care arrangements.

How long does the estate administration process take in BC?

Vancouver Wills & Estate Planning with between a lawyer and married coupleWhen a person passes away in BC, the executor appointed by the deceased in the Last Will will administer the estate.

This usually involves arranging the funeral, preparing for probate, filing taxes, paying debts, and distributing the estate.

In general, this process takes between eight months and two years. The court must authorize the executor to act on behalf of the deceased, approve the distribution of the estate, and tax clearance certificates must be sought. 

This all takes time. If there are complex estates or disputes, the process can take much longer,

Is probate necessary in BC? 

If you are the executor of a will in BC, you will need to apply for probate at the Supreme Court of BC

The process of probate is where you will prove to the court that the will is legally valid as the Last Will and you will disclose the assets in the estate. 

The process generally takes around a month through the Vancouver Probate Registry but it can take longer.

What probate fees apply in Vancouver? 

Providing that the deceased was a BC resident, there are probate fees applied to the gross value of their estate, which includes real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, investments, personal property, and so on.

Debts, other than mortgages, do not generally reduce the probate fees payable.

Estate planning checklist for BC residents 

Your estate plan should be as comprehensive as possible and go into fine detail wherever necessary. 

The more specific you are, the less room there is for confusion, disputes, and conflict among those you leave behind.

Start with the following checklist, which you can work through independently and then discuss with one of our experienced estate planning lawyers:

  • Prepare a will and choose an executor – this is a significant responsibility so do not take this decision lightly.
  • Choose the beneficiaries of your will – who will get your assets? 
  • Choose a guardian for minor children (if applicable) – to make sure that any dependent children are cared for if something happens to you.
  • Make arrangements for the guardian to access the necessary funds to support the children.
  • Make a list of how you want your personal effects distributed – and give it to your executor.
  • Inform the executor where the original Last Will is kept.
  • Organize life and disability insurance to protect those who rely on you financially if something happens to you – and name the beneficiaries.
  • Appoint beneficiaries for all your investments.
  • Plan your funeral, make sure the executor is aware of your wishes, and even consider pre-paying it.
  • Think about tax-effective ways for loved ones to benefit from your estate – such as with gifting or setting up trusts.
  • Consider transferring property to joint ownership if you want the beneficiary to inherit it after you’re gone – this will ensure that the transfer happens automatically and may help avoid probate fees and taxes.
  • Prepare an enduring power of attorney to allow a trusted individual to sign legal documents on your behalf if you are incapacitated.
  • Prepare a living will that appoints someone else to make decisions regarding your health and personal care if you are no longer able to.
  • Consider preparing a trust where you can specify rules for property that will be held in trust for your beneficiaries.

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