The hard truth about your Will is that you won’t really know if it is a good one, until it is too late to change it. By the time someone recognizes that an issue was addressed improperly, inadequately, or not at all… you will likely be deceased.
“People often say they have ‘peace of mind’ after they execute estate planning documents, but too often after a person passes away, we know that was a false sense of security,” explains Elyssa Lockhart, a partner at McQuarrie and an expert in corporate succession and wealth preservation. “If a Will is drafted based on your instructions, but without ample time spent discussing your assets and liabilities, shareholder agreements, family law agreements, and your broad intentions and objectives – your advisor won’t have enough information to determine whether your estate plan poses unanticipated risks.” These risks might include unnecessary tax consequences, increased likelihood of litigation, or even gifts going to the wrong beneficiaries.
Estate Planning and Wealth Management
You can’t take it with you, but how you choose to distribute it involves crucial decisions. Make sure that your bankers, investment planners, insurance and legal professionals are all willing to talk with one another. How an asset is acquired, held, reported for tax purposes, and designated to beneficiaries will impact your Will.
“I am often asked about the wisest way to transfer wealth,” Lockhart continues. “This depends on several factors, not the least of which include a variety of provincial and federal laws, the structure of assets at the moment, family composition, and of course – the intended outcome following death. The best guarantee of successful wealth transition is to have your advisors discuss your goals openly, cover areas of professional overlap and identify issues of field-specific concern before making recommendations from only one perspective.”
Don’t be Penny Wise and Pound Foolish
B.C. differs from other Canadian jurisdictions in how we are required to treat our spouses and children in the distribution of assets when we die. Lockhart has seen any number of inadvisable ‘self-help’ solutions to the perceived risk of a Will being modified in our Courts. Other self-help solutions stem from inaccurate beliefs about how assets are taxed when we die, or about who will receive assets if our primary beneficiary dies before we do. In most cases, these self-help solutions actually create considerable tax, asset transfer and registration, legal and accounting or even litigation fees after death – all easily avoidable if an experienced estate planning lawyer had been consulted at the start.
“When it comes to my clients and the assets they typically hold, we often include multiple wills,” says Lockhart. A Corporate Will allows for more privacy, offers cost savings in the administration process and most importantly, helps to speed the process and ensure continuous control over corporate assets. “We also see an increased call for alter ego trusts and mutual wills, setting out protections for all parties in a blended family by ensuring surviving spouses aren’t left without support, but don’t later disinherit children from a first marriage, either intentionally or inadvertently.”
“As planning advisors, we prefer to look at what a client has already structured and offer suggestions if we see room for improvement, based on their stated objectives. We don’t work transactionally, taking instructions without offering advice“, Lockhart confirms. Lockhart’s practice often involves a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). She points out that you don’t necessarily need to make big changes to your structure or your plan, but you should have true peace of mind.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Lockhart and her team were already conducting client interviews via secure video-conferencing. McQuarrie’s practice is B.C. based and their experienced legal team is able to work effectively with clients throughout the Province.
Don’t wait until it is too late. Speak to a trusted advisor at McQuarrie today.