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Wills and Estate Law

What Is a Will?

A will is a written document that highlights how one’s legal property will be managed or distributed after their death. A will can include specific information like how someone is to be buried and how property will be divided among heirs. A will can ensure that you have peace of mind in case of death. It also legally communicates your wishes on how your finances, property, and children are to be supported or divided after death.

Do I Need a Will?

If you die without a Will, your estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy which may not reflect your wishes. Additionally, where there is not a Will someone will have to apply to court to be appointed as 'Estate Trustee' in order to look after your estate. Hence, without a valid Will, you cannot determine who should inherit your estate and the involvement of the court is a lot more likely to occur.

How Do I Ensure My Children Are Taken Care of After My Death?

A Will is an important document to have, especially for spouses with minor children. A Will allows you to determine who should look after your minor children, in the event of death. If you do not have a Will, the court will make this decision for you without knowing your wishes. Another feature of a properly drafted Will is that it allows you to determine how your money should be managed to support your children when they are young.

Are My Common-Law Spouse Entitled to My Estate After Death?

Common-law spouses do not have the same rights to an inheritance as married spouses under the law. Hence, if you wish to leave an inheritance for your common-law spouse, it is important that you consult with a lawyer and consider setting up a well-prepared Will.

I Do Not Have Many Assets. Do I Need a Will?

Having a Will is important regardless of the size of your estate. Your estate, whether large or small, will be distributed according to the law if you do not have a valid Will. Generally, the law dictates that the first $200,000 is given to the deceased person’s spouse and anything over is shared between the spouse and the deceased’s children. If there is no spouse, then the estate is divided among the children and if the deceased did not have a spouse or children, the estate is shared according to specific rules.

What Is Probate?

Probate is a process by which the court confirms the validity of a Will and examines whether the executor named in the Will has legal authority to act. The probate process can be lengthy and expensive. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid it. A competent estate lawyer will be able to advise on how probate can be minimized. Some of the legal services that a paralegal can provide in the Landlord and Tenant Board include: Preparing and filing applications: A paralegal can help landlords and tenants prepare and file applications with the Landlord and Tenant Board, such as applications for rent increases, maintenance orders, or eviction orders. Representing clients at hearings: A paralegal can represent landlords and tenants at hearings before the Landlord and Tenant Board, presenting evidence and making arguments on behalf of their clients. Providing legal advice: A paralegal can provide legal advice to landlords and tenants regarding their rights and obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act, as well as the procedures and processes involved in Landlord and Tenant Board proceedings. Negotiating settlements: A paralegal can help landlords and tenants negotiate settlements or agreements to resolve disputes outside of formal Landlord and Tenant Board proceedings. ​ It's important to note that paralegals cannot provide all of the legal services that a lawyer can provide, such as representing clients in court or providing legal opinions on complex legal issues. However, in many cases, paralegals can provide cost-effective and efficient legal services to landlords and tenants in the Landlord and Tenant Board.

Can I Write My Own Will?

In Ontario, if a Will is entirely handwritten by the testator and signed and dated by him or her, it is generally considered a valid Will. Witnesses are not required for the validity. However, handwritten Wills can be problematic for many reasons. Handwritten Wills are more likely to be challenged in court for example because the testator’s wishes stated in the will are either not clear enough or the capacity of the testator is at stake and cannot be proven. Disputes among family members and costs for the estate as a result of a poorly drafted Will can be avoided if a Will is drafted by an expert. At a minimum, it is a good idea to have an expert review your handwritten Will.

What Is a Power of Attorney?

In general terms, a power of attorney is a document that authorizes another person to make decisions on the grantor’s behalf during the grantor’s lifetime in the event he or she is unable to make decisions regarding his/her assets or health-care. A power of attorney is effective during lifetime, whereas a Will becomes relevant after death. Both are very important documents to have and will save your loved ones unnecessary costs and distress.

What is estate planning?

Estate planning involves creating a comprehensive plan for the management and distribution of assets and properties during a person's lifetime and after their death. It often includes wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and other legal documents.

What happens if an individual dies without a will?

If someone dies without a will, their assets will be distributed according to the intestacy laws of the jurisdiction. This may not align with their preferences, and the process can be more complex and time-consuming.

Can I update or change my will?

A: Yes, you can update or change your will at any time by creating a new one or adding a codicil, which is a legal amendment to an existing will. It is recommended to review your will periodically and make updates as needed to reflect changes in your circumstances.

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