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New Westminster Estates Law Blog

Who must executors notify to avoid estate problems

Most British Columbia residents do not live in a vacuum. They obtain identification, purchase assets, incur debts and more. When executors begin the estate administration process, part of their duties involves notifying all relevant parties of the benefactor's death. Estate problems can arise when all parties do not receive notification, especially they have a legal right to a notice.

Some notifications seem more obvious than others. For instance, it make sense to notify creditors, landlords and next of kin. However, other parties also need notification, such as British Columbia pensions, housing, WorkSafeBC, elections and more. Executors will need to cancel items such as passports, driver's licenses and BC services cards.

Acting as a trustee is often not a popular position to be in

When your British Columbia loved one approached you with the request to fulfill an important function in his or her estate plan, you may not have considered all the angles. When the time came for you to serve as trustee, you quickly realized it was not what you thought it would be. Even if you have no trouble with performing your duties, the beneficiaries may make your job more of a challenge.

Beneficiaries are not always cooperative. They may not be happy with the rules of the trust regarding distributions. They may not be pleased with how you are handling the assets. Any number of issues could arise with the beneficiaries, especially if there is a familial relationship between them and you.

Tips for choosing an executor

When you make a will, you have numerous important decisions to make, and not just about what to do with your assets. You will also determine who will execute the terms of your will.

Some people are inclined to name the person closest to them. However, there are numerous factors you should consider before appointing someone as the executor of your estate.

Power of attorney disputes can arise from end-of-life choices

When British Columbia residents create an estate plan, they probably make arrangements for what will happen to their assets and debts after death, along with what would happen to them should they become incapacitated. Creating a power of attorney gives another person the authority to make health care decisions for the person granting the power when he or she is not able to due to make them. Understanding the choices the agent may face could help in choosing the right person and leaving instructions that are as clear as possible.

Each British Columbia resident must choose what medical intervention he or she wants or does not want when nearing the end of life. For instance, some may decide that they do not want emergency responders or medical personnel to perform CPR if they stop breathing or their heart stops beating. One person may want palliative care only, which means simply making a person comfortable, or curative care, which means wanting any and all medical measures to cure the condition or extend life.

Assessing someone's mental capacity: How to do it, why it matters

It is undoubtedly upsetting to watch the health of someone you love decline. Often, loved ones try to stay positive, and they may not be capable of accurately assessing the extent of a person’s condition. In some cases, friends and family may not have enough contact with the person to know how he or she is doing.

As such, people can miss evidence that the person is experiencing mental decline or incapacity that could make them unable to make decisions regarding their care. In these situations, assessing his or her capacity can be crucial.

What does 'undue influence' look like?

The death of a loved one can be devastating. Learning that he or she left behind a will with unusual or unexpected terms can make the situation even more upsetting.

In some cases, the will could be so troubling that people suspect it is not an accurate representation of what the will-maker wanted. In such situations, determining if a person was unduly influenced can be critical for the purposes of setting the will aside.

Failing to provide for a spouse may lead to estate litigation

For most British Columbia residents part of being married is taking care of each other emotionally, physically, and yes, financially. When it comes to estate planning, spouses may want to make sure they adequately provide for each other. Failing to provide for a spouse upon death could mean estate litigation for surviving family members.

British Columbia spouses are entitled to a certain portion of a deceased spouse's estate. If he or she does not provide for a spouse in a will or some other estate-planning document such as a trust, the surviving spouse may file a claim seeking a portion of the estate. In order to avoid your family members battling in court over this issue after your death, you may want to make sure you take steps to provide for your spouse.

Not all estate litigation results from wills and trusts

Incapacitation is always a possibility. People suffer illnesses and injuries that could make it impossible for them to make decisions for themselves. Many British Columbia residents prepared for this eventuality by executing powers of attorney in which they entrust their finances and health to someone they trust. Sadly, not everyone deserves that trust, and estate litigation could ensue because of it.

It is not unusual for people to make mistakes, but when those errors result in the failure to protect an incapacitated person, concerned family members will more than likely take notice. In addition, some acts are so irresponsible that others feel the need to step in to stop and correct the problem. In most instances, it will first be necessary to remove the individual causing the problem.

Seeking committeeship for the well-being of a loved one

One of the most difficult things in life is watching an elderly parent lose his or her mental faculties. As parents get older, they may be in the difficult and dangerous position of being unable to care for themselves or manage their own affairs. In such cases, British Columbia residents may have the heavy burden of seeking committeeship over their parents.

A committee is a trusted individual whom the court appoints to handle the medical, financial or personal matters of someone who is mentally incapable of managing them alone. It is almost always a difficult decision because it means terminating the rights of the incapacitated person. However, someone who is still mentally alert may nominate someone ahead of time to serve as a committee should the need arise.

What clauses could lead to wills and estates litigation?

British Columbia residents may make bequests to their loved ones as they see fit. However, the terms of those bequests must meet certain standards in order to avoid wills and estates litigation. Below are examples of the types of standards individual bequests must meet in order to remain valid upon death.

Individuals can place conditions on a bequest, but they must remain within reason. Obviously, the law would not allow any bequest that requires an individual to break the law, divorce a spouse, relinquish custody of a child, discriminate against an ethnic or religious group, or otherwise violate public policy. However, the restrictions do go further than that.

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