the real/estate blog


Have a coffee with your discussion of dying

Posted in End of Life Care,Estate Planning,Funeral planning by Cesia Green on July 9, 2013
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Have you ever heard of aCoffee shop death café?

Neither had I, until I read this article at the Globe and Mail last week. Basically, they are informal gatherings – sometimes at coffee shops, sometimes in people’s homes – where a small group can get together, enjoy tea and sweets, and discuss anything and everything related to death and dying. From having a green funeral, to fears about dying alone, to questions about organ donation. Nothing is off the table, and participants are able to have their questions answered in a non-judgemental and relaxed environment.

If you heard about a Death Café in your city, would you attend?

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Some thoughts for the not-quite-married

Posted in Estate Planning,Intestacy by Cesia Green on July 2, 2013
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Wedding aisleIn Canada, for the most part, there is little day-to-day difference between couples who are legally married and couples who are common law. You can get benefits at work, get a family membership at the gym, and generally live as if you are married. One significant difference, however, is in matters of estates law.

If you are not legally married, you are entitled to nothing from your spouse’s estate unless you are legally married or you have signed wills. Truly: nothing. You have no inheritance rights unless you are dependent on your spouse, in which case you have to sue your spouse’s estate to receive anything. (And even then you will not get the full estate, only what you would have been entitled to if you had separated the day before your partner’s death).

Common-law couples are a group who truly need to have estate planning documents in place. Society may not care whether you have walked down an aisle, but the Ontario government certainly does.

Celebrity death match, round two

Posted in Celebrity Planning,Estate Planning by Cesia Green on June 25, 2013
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I have posted ofRed carpetten before on the fact that celebrities tend to make the same mistakes as the rest of us, just compounded by more money and more dependants (you can read posts here, here and here, for example). Sheyna Steiner has posted a new list of celebrity follies over at Bankrate.com.

From Leona Helmsley leaving money to her dog with no consideration given to her grandchildren, to quarterback Steve McNair who faced huge a tax burden from a lack of planning, to Jim Morrison whose estate ended up in the hands of his girlfriend’s parents rather than his own, it is clear that having great wealth does not lead to any greater likelihood of having estate planning documents in place.

Be better than the celebrities you follow. Do some planning.

Your family may have changed. Has your will?

Posted in Estate Planning,Intestacy by Cesia Green on June 18, 2013
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Last week, I wrote about updating your will for your own benefit. Today, I want to talk about updating your will for the benefit of others.

Last month, Elizabeth O’Brien wrote this article on MarketWatch. She mentions a vast number of reasons why it can be disastrous to your family if you don’t keep things up-to-date, such as:

  • Stepchildren inheriting instead of biological children
  • Former spouses inheriting instead of children
  • Spouses of your children inheriting instead of grandchildren
  • Beneficiaries who are spendthrift or have addiction problems inheriting outright instead of through a trust

You owe it to yourself to keep your documents updated. You also owe it to your family.

Update your will!

Posted in Estate Planning by Cesia Green on June 11, 2013
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I love reading Consumer Reports. It’s a great magazine with a lot of very useful tips – both in general, and when you’re looking to make a major purchase.

I was catching up on my reading recently, and came across this article on money mistakes to avoid and the first point caught my eye. I say this a lot on this blog but it bears repeating: having an out-of-date will (or beneficiary designations) can often be as financially disastrous as having no will at all. Get it, and update it.

Giving and taking back

Posted in Charitable giving,Estate Planning by Cesia Green on June 4, 2013
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I came acroShelter catss this story the other day about a gift left to charity that ended up in the wrong place. Basically, the donation was accidentally sent to the wrong animal shelter; both had the same name, but were in identically named cities in different states.

In this particular situation, the money had to be given to the correct shelter; you can’t keep money you received by mistake, even if you are a charity. If, on the other hand, the situation had been that the other shelter no longer existed, the money could have been given to this shelter as a similar organization.

If you are leaving money to charity, it is very important to make sure that you have checked the name of the charity, but it is also important to allow for your executor to give money to a general charitable purpose in case that charity no longer exists or has changed its name.

Changing it up

Posted in Estate Planning by Cesia Green on May 28, 2013
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Many people know that, on marriage, your will is automatically revoked. There is a good public policy reason for this: your spouse should not be disinherited simply because you forgot to update your will. (I touched on the issue of predatory marriages a while back.)

Broken heartWhat many people don’t understand, however, is that separation and divorce do not automatically revoke a will. If you are divorced, your estate is treated as if your spouse died before you; he or she will not be able to be your executor or inherit, but you might want to rethink your ex-brother-in-law as your alternate executor and beneficiary from the will you did just after you got married 20 years ago.

If you are separated, it is much murkier. If you have a formal separation agreement in place, your former spouse likely won’t be able to inherit, though you still have the same problem of your alternates. If you don’t have a separation agreement, though, there are no bans on your former spouse inheriting your entire estate.

This is likely not the solution you want. If you separate, you should have your will redone as soon as possible.

Two thumbs up for doing your estate plan right

Posted in Estate Planning by Cesia Green on May 21, 2013
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Roger Ebert, the film critic famous for popularizing the “two thumbs up” concept for movies, passed away last month after a long battle with cancer.

Ebert’s estate gives us an important lesson: take warnings from people close to you very much to heart. Ebert’s friend and co-host Gene Siskel died of a brain tumour in 1999. While you should keep your will and powers of attorney up to date generally, a friend or loved one becoming very ill or dying suddenly should always be a wake-up call to get  your own estate plan in order.

h/t to the Evan Guthrie Law Firm for the original post.

Things no one tells you about death

Posted in End of Life Care,Estate Planning by Cesia Green on May 14, 2013
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Death of winterI came across this post the other day (warning: some NSFW text) and immediately connected with so much of it. While I might not have used the exact same language, he makes a lot of really good points. There is so much that we are not prepared for when someone dies; this runs the gamut from the bureaucratic nightmare that is dealing with institutions on the death of a loved one, to not actually feeling sad, in the case of a person you knew but not well, when you feel that you should be experiencing some negative emotion but don’t.

If you don’t mind a bit of swearing and want an entertaining read on a difficult subject, check it out.

You’re going to die. Be prepared.

Posted in Estate Planning,Intestacy by Cesia Green on May 7, 2013
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I regularly read the blog Lifehacker, which is basically a collection of tips for making life easier. A few weeks ago, I came across this article on what you need to do now to prepare for death.

As the author observes, none of us likes to think about death. It will come to us all eventually, though, and some planning now will make it easier on everyone, including you, in the long run. Some of the information is very specific to American residents, but it is a great read if you are starting to think about what you need to do.

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