Legal Services for Senior Citizens – Not Just Wills
Legal Services Speaker for Seniors & Caregivers Wellness Expo, Port Moody
The Seniors & Caregivers Wellness Expo presented by Vancity on Saturday, June 3, 2017, took place at Inlet Theatre & Galleria, Port Moody. 25 participants from public, private and not-for-profit sectors provided financial literacy advice and advocacy for healthy communities.
Vancity generously sponsored this free public event and financial literacy keynote speakers included Michael Poznanski who provided information on Estates & Powers of Attorney. What follows are some of the highlights that raise issues you may want to consider if you are 55+ years of age (or if you have children or relatives with disabilities).
Legal Issues for Seniors in British Columbia
Legal issues for seniors and their families extend beyond making sure you have a proper will in place, to ensure your wishes are carried out the way you intended. Matters that may be of interest to senior citizens and where an experienced wills and estates lawyer can help include:
- Powers of attorney, end-of-life care, wills and representation agreements in estate planning
- Gifts and inheritances for spouses, children and other beneficiaries
- Establishing trusts for the benefit of any children with disabilities
- Placing children or spouses as joint owners on property
Powers of Attorney and Incapacity Planning
Designating a power of attorney to act on your behalf in legal and financial matters if you are unable, and making your wishes clear for incapacity for medical consent is vital for your estate planning:
- A Power of Attorney allows the person you name to act on your behalf for all legal and financial affairs in the event of your incapacity. Without a Power of Attorney, a family member would need to obtain a court order to take control of your assets, which can be costly and subject to lengthy delay.
- Your Representation Agreement appoints someone to act on your behalf for all medical and health care matters, including refusing care, if you are not able to speak for yourself.
- An Advance Directive states that if you are being kept alive only by artificial means or heroic measures and there is no reasonable chance for recovery, you wish to stop treatments and die a natural death.
Estate Planning for Gifts and Inheritances
You may also wish to make gifts to your spouse, children or grandchildren while you are still alive. For example, you may want to purchase a house for your child, transfer a house to your child or pay for a grandchild’s university fees. Whether this is a true gift, a loan, or an advance on a person’s inheritance is a matter of intention.
There is no gift tax in Canada. Any Canadian resident can receive a gift or inheritance of any amount from almost any source (except an employer) and this would not be taxable income.
An experienced estate planning lawyer can discuss with you how to arrange your will so that it can take into account any advances on inheritance or whether you wish any loans to be repaid by your children when you die. If you do arrange the funds to be a loan, an estate lawyer can assist you in protecting yourself and your estate.
Establishing Trusts for Children with Disabilities
If any of your children or beneficiaries under your will have disabilities, it may be vital to ensure that their inheritance is passed to them within a testamentary trust. The benefits of a trust are that the fund receives greater protection from creditors or claimants, and offers full discretion to the trustee (typically your executor) to manage the fund making payments for the child’s care, education, maintenance, or general well-being. The trust also typically ensures that the inheritance will not cut off any government disability benefits currently being received by the child.
Joint Ownership of Property
Placing children as joint owners on a property can ensure a quick, easy, and cost-effective transition of a property to your children. The largest benefit of joint ownership of property is that upon your death, the children take over full ownership of the property without any reference to the deceased persons’ estate.
The property also does not go through any probate or administration process, meaning no probate fees are payable, and it is not generally subject to any claims under wills variation legislation.
However, placing children as joint owners on the property results in risk to yourself because your home is now subject to your children’s financial and marital issues. There may also be adverse tax consequences. It is always best to consult with an experienced estate professional before placing property under joint ownership.
Michael Poznanski, Estates & Power of Attorneys
Michael Poznanski is a solicitor with expertise in corporate, commercial, intellectual property, real estate, and estate planning at BTM Lawyers. If you have questions or concerns about your will or estate planning matters, Contact Michael.
Wills & Estates