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Donna Neff's Law Blog

I’ve been appointed as executor of my grandfather’s estate….I’m wondering, how long will it take?

November 20th, 2014

estate administration how longFew of us are familiar with how long the administration of an estate can take.  People are surprised to learn that it generally takes an executor (more formally known as an “estate trustee”) a year to a year and a half to administer and wind up even a simple estate … longer if the estate is complex or there are assets in other jurisdictions or there are unexpected problems. Read the rest of this entry »


My father signed a Power of Attorney for Property in Alberta….Is it valid in Ontario?

November 13th, 2014

power of attorney property validityLast week I met with Sue (not her real name) in my law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa. I first worked with Sue when she was acting as executor of her mother’s estate. While living in Alberta, her father had signed a Power of Attorney for Property naming Sue. Following a stroke, he was moved to Ottawa to be closer to family. Sue explained that due to the stroke, he is no longer mentally capable. The financial institution where her father’s investments are held refuses to recognize the Power of Attorney signed in Alberta.  They say that since it was signed outside of Ontario, they do not consider it valid.  Read the rest of this entry »


I’ve been named as an executor….What am I getting into?

November 6th, 2014

executor estate trustee dutiesI recently met with Ryan at my law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa. His aunt had died suddenly from a heart attack and her Will named him as executor (officially called ‘estate trustee’). Ryan and other nieces and nephews were named as beneficiaries.

Ryan said his friends and colleagues had warned him that being an executor is not easy and can take a lot of time. Although he wanted to honour his aunt’s wish that he act as executor, he worked full time and had two small children at home. He wasn’t sure he had the time or energy to take on the job.

Ryan is not alone. The first thing most executors want to know is exactly what they are getting themselves into. Read the rest of this entry »


My spouse has died, should I make my assets joint with my daughter? That makes things easier, doesn’t it?

October 30th, 2014

joint assets estate planningI regularly get asked questions like this. Many of my clients who meet with me at my law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa have been given this advice by a well-meaning friend or family member or sometimes another professional.  They are often told that holding some or all of their assets jointly with one or more of their adult children will make managing theirs affairs easier for their family and will save probate fees.

I almost always recommend that assets not be held jointly with adult children for a number of reasons. Read the rest of this entry »


Changes on the horizon for Canadian Snowbirds

October 16th, 2014

snowbirds tax estate planningJust as our feathered friends are making their annual pilgrimage to sunnier skies, thousands of Canadian snowbirds will soon be heading to Florida, Arizona and other warmer places. Many of the clients we meet at our law office in Stittsville (Ottawa) head to the southern USA to get out of the cold and they are not alone. It has been estimated that over half a million Canadians spend their winters in Florida each year.

Canadian snowbirds need to be aware that changes may be coming that could have serious tax consequences for those wishing to escape our harsh winter. Read the rest of this entry »


Does Where I Live When I Die Affect my Estate?

October 9th, 2014

will estate planning foreign real propertyYes, where you live when you die can make a big difference in how your estate is dealt with.  You might be surprised to learn that if you are living in Switzerland at your death, forced heirship laws could overrule what your Will says.

I’ve just returned to Ottawa from Zurich, Switzerland, where I attended a conference about international estates.  I met other estate professionals from all over Europe, the UK, and as far away as Australia and the USA.  We learned a great deal about the differences in the way estates are handled in Europe, the UK and the USA.  Read the rest of this entry »


How Not to Leave a Gift to a Grandchild Upon your Death

October 2nd, 2014

estate planning grandchild trustI’ve named my little granddaughter as the beneficiary of my life insurance policy but with her dad, my son, as the trustee.  He’ll have full control, won’t he?”

I get asked the above question time and time again. The answer, in short, probably not to the extent you think he will. Read the rest of this entry »


How Much Can the Trustee of a Henson Trust be Paid?

September 25th, 2014
adult child disability henson trust

Can the trustee of my Henson Trust be paid?

You may already know that at our law office in Stittsville (near Ottawa), we specialize in estates and trusts. As a result, we often meet people who are beneficiaries or trustees of a Henson Trust and who want to understand how it works.

A Henson Trust is a special type of trust that holds the money and assets meant for a beneficiary with a disability.  A properly-drafted Henson Trust allows the beneficiary to be left an inheritance indirectly without affecting their benefits under the Ontario Disability Support Program (‘ODSP’). If an ODSP beneficiary receives an inheritance directly, ODSP benefits could be reduced or eliminated …  not usually what anyone wants unless the inheritance is a very large amount.

The trust is looked after by a trustee … a person or trust company appointed to manage or administer the Henson Trust assets. Sometimes clients want to know if the trustee can get paid and, if so, how much. Read the rest of this entry »


Three of the Biggest Mistakes Executors Make

September 19th, 2014

Acting as an executor is a big job. And one that comes with a lot of responsibility. Perhaps not surprisingly then, there is a lot of room for error and mistakes are sometimes made.

As we specialize in estates at our law office in Stittsville (Ottawa), we meet with a lot of executors and have first-hand knowledge of the mistakes that executors often make. Unfortunately, mistakes can be costly, both to the estate and to the executor.

Here are what I consider to be three of the biggest mistakes made by executors: Read the rest of this entry »


Top Three Tips for Choosing a Lawyer

September 11th, 2014
choose lawyer estates

How do I know which lawyer is best for me?


As we specialize in estates, from estate planning to getting probate and guardianship orders to administering estates, we see the good, the bad and the ugly of estates work. Mistakes are made, sometimes by the lawyer who drafted the Will, sometimes by the executor or guardian and often these mistakes translate into big losses for the estate.

Not long ago in our law office in Stittsville (Ottawa), we were casually talking amongst ourselves about the biggest mistake that an executor can make. One of our team members jokingly replied ‘hiring the wrong lawyer’. Read the rest of this entry »