What is estate law?
Estate law is concerned with the sum of assets left by an individual when they die and the distribution of those assets. This field of law covers estate planning and administration and wills and probate, as well as conflict resolution.
What do estate lawyers do?Estate lawyers provide a diverse range of services and they assist a wide range of clients. Estate lawyers are involved in estate planning and preparation, as well as administration and stepping in to support clients and identify solutions when disputes arise. Losing a loved one is incredibly harrowing and distressing. If you have lost somebody close to you, the last thing you need is legal complexities causing stress or taking up valuable time. Estate lawyers work to simplify processes at what can be a very difficult time, providing advice and assistance to ensure that estates are administered properly and the client's best interests are protected. Estate lawyers take on a wide range of roles and responsibilities. Examples of tasks and services that estate lawyers undertake or offer include:
- Accounting and estate duties
- Probate application
- Passing of accounts
- Compiling estate inventories
- Tax and financial consulting
- Identifying and valuing assets
- Estate administration
- Liaising with creditors and discharging estate debts
- Distribution of assets to beneficiaries
- Preparation and distribution of accounts
- Preparing court documents
- Assistance in the event of an estate owner having no will
- Assisting will executors
What happens to an estate if there is no will?Research suggests that around 51% of Canadians do not have a will. A will is a legal document, which outlines what will happen to your assets when you die. In order to be recognized, a will must be signed by the estate owner and verified witnesses. If an individual dies without a will, the court will appoint somebody to manage the estate. In most cases, this will be a surviving spouse or a close family member. If there are no surviving relatives, other people who were close to the individual may be considered by means of a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee.
Is it essential to make a will?At Verhaeghe Law, we strongly advise all our clients to make a will. It is particularly important to make a will if you have dependents or shared assets or your circumstances have changed, for example, you have separated or divorced. If you have a will, your instructions will be followed and your beneficiaries will benefit from your estate. If you don't have a will, the estate will be handled in line with the stipulations of the Wills and Succession Act (Alberta) and a representative will be appointed by the court. We urge our clients to make a detailed will, rather than a simple will. Often, a simple will cannot cover all the complexities and convolutions of an estate, for example, shared assets or property such as life insurance and dependents. It is important to cross every box so that you have peace of mind.
What is probate?Probate is a process, which involves the court approving a will and verifying the identity of the executor. Once probates are granted, the executor of the will can commence duties. The executor is the person or trust named in the will. Their primary role is to carry out the administration of the estate.
Seeking legal help and advice as an executorIn many cases, a testator (the person making a will) will consult with the individual they wish to name as the will executor in advance, and therefore, the executor will understand their responsibilities when the testator dies. However, sometimes, people become executors without prior knowledge. There are instances when dealing with estates can be complex and stressful, especially if there are disputes or family conflicts. If you are appointed executor and you experience difficulties, you may benefit from seeking legal advice. Examples of scenarios in which legal assistance may be beneficial include:
- Offering advice on the duties and responsibilities of an executor
- Applying for probate
- Providing opinions on the detail of the will
- Completing instruments of conveyance
- Arranging the registration of assets
- Providing advice throughout the probate and estate administration process
What are the benefits of a full-service law firm?Verhaeghe Law is a full-service law firm, offering a diverse range of estate law services, including:
- Estate planning
- Wills and probate
- Executor assistance
- Powers of attorney
- Personal directives
- Estate settlements