Wills, Estates & Trusts
Planning for your family’s future
Our lawyers help you navigate the often complex business of managing your estate throughout your life and can help you plan for your family’s future.
You may find it difficult to think about a day you will no longer be here. From decades of client work, we know that proper estate planning gives you, your family and your friends peace of mind that your affairs are appropriately considered. That preparation includes a carefully drafted will that sets out who will manage your estate and the division of your estate among your beneficiaries.
To start, our lawyers thoroughly review your family and financial situation to help craft an estate plan and a will that best serve you. The advice may range from simple (such as ownership of assets) to complex (such as the use of multiple wills or trusts designed to protect minors or special needs beneficiaries, allow asset protection or create tax benefits). We tailor our advice to your particular requirements.
Everyone needs a will
Everyone should have a will – from those with the simplest, most straightforward estates to those with complex business holdings. Your will appoints the executor of your estate who will manage the estate, paying your debts and distributing your assets to the beneficiaries you’ve named in your will. If you die without a will, you will have died “intestate”, which means provincial laws, rather than you, will decide how your property is distributed. Without a will you can’t chose an executor and in addition, it creates bonding and surety requirements for the family member who applies to court to be named as the administrator of your estate. If you own property in more than one province (say Manitoba and Ontario), then you will have to follow laws of intestacy in each jurisdiction. Dying intestate makes settling your estate more complicated for your loved ones and can cause delay and additional costs.
Second Family Situations
It’s common today for people to have second families with a new spouse or common-law partner, and often including children from a previous marriage or relationship. Because spouses and common-law partners have special, legislated rights that arise on death, people with second families can experience additional conflict when estates are divided. Our lawyers know how to identify unique issues that can help minimize or eliminate the potential disagreements or hurt feelings from situations like this.
Incapacity Planning: Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives
There may come a time when you need someone to help you look after your affairs. We’ll review with you the issues surrounding the preparation and signing of a power of attorney in Manitoba or elsewhere in Canada. Powers of attorney are powerful documents that allow you to appoint the people you trust to assist you if the need arises. Without a valid power of attorney, your family may be required to make a court application in order to handle your affairs for you.
We can also help you develop a health care directive to address medical decisions that may need to be made for you if you lose capacity to make such decisions and/or become unable to communicate your wishes. In a health care directive, you give direction about what kinds of medical treatment you want or do not want. You also appoint a proxy, the person who will make medical decisions for you if you cannot make those decisions for yourself. Health care directives can be simple or complex depending on your situation and preferences. We’ll help you make the informed and well-advised choices necessary for the preparation and signing of this significant document.
When preparing your estate, an efficient tax plan will help reduce taxes for you and your family. The plan can include a tax reduction during your lifetime and after your death. Our tax and estate planning lawyers have experience using a variety of techniques, including the use of trusts (including alter ego trusts), estate freezes, income splitting and maximizing access to capital gains exemptions.
Committeeship – When someone loses the ability to make their own financial and personal decisions but has not signed a power of attorney, we will help families obtain a committeeship order from the Court. A committeeship order provides the necessary authority to manage the affairs of the incompetent person and can include authority to handle financial matters, personal care or both. We also assist families with the ongoing administration and regular reporting to the Court that will be required after an order of committeeship is granted.
Infants' Estate Act Applications – If a minor is to inherit assets in Manitoba and no trustee is named to hold those assets on behalf of the minor, someone, generally a family member, must apply to be appointed as guardian of the assets of that child. We can assist you with this application as well as with the ongoing administration and required reporting to the Court.