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Donna Neff's Law Blog

I signed my Will a few years ago but have since divorced … Is my Will still valid?

May 28th, 2015

estate planning separation

I’m asked this question quite frequently at my law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa. The answer is yes, under Ontario law, but with one qualifier. If the testator (the person who signed the Will) is legally divorced from his or her spouse when the testator passes away, any Will signed before the divorce is still valid but would be read as if the testator’s spouse had died first. All other provisions of the Will would still be effective. However, if the testator’s circumstances have changed since the Will was signed, the Will’s remaining provisions may no longer reflect the testator’s goals. Read the rest of this entry »


My father just passed away. He has bills that need to be paid. What should I do?

May 14th, 2015

This is one of the questions I am most frequently asked at my law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa. Generally, the individual has been named as executor in the Will of the deceased but does not yet have access to the deceased’s bank account.

The first thing I remind the executor (‘estate trustee’) is that if they were acting as the deceased’s Power of Attorney for Property, their authority as Attorney ended on death. So, the Power of Attorney for Property cannot be used to pay the deceased’s bills.

It may be possible to have the deceased’s bills paid in a couple of other ways: Read the rest of this entry »


Good News Regarding RDSPs

May 7th, 2015

registered diability support plan deadline

Budget 2015 included an exciting extension for individuals with a disability and their families with respect to registered disability support plans (RDSPs).  Budget 2012 had previously introduced a temporary measure to help those with a disability open an RDSP if the person with a disability did not have the ability to enter into a contract and did not have a legal representative such as a guardian or Power of Attorney for Property. In such cases, certain qualifying family members, including a parent or a spouse, can become the RDSP holder. This temporary measure was originally put into place until December 31, 2016. However, this deadline has been extended to December 31, 2018. Read the rest of this entry »


Help! My Will divides my estate among my ‘issue per stirpes’ but what does that mean?

April 30th, 2015

estate planning ottawa lawIf you have asked this question, don’t worry, you are not alone. At my law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa, we often get asked this question. Most of our estate planning clients and the executors or estate trustees we work with have not heard the term “issue per stirpes” before. It likely goes without saying that the language of legal documents is unfamiliar to most people and can be difficult to understand.

“Per stirpes” is a latin term meaning “by roots” or “by branch”. “Issue” refers to everyone down the family tree starting from a particular person.  So my “issue” would include my children, my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren and so on.  It would not include my parents, siblings, nieces or nephews.  Read the rest of this entry »


Tax Rules Are Changing … Are testamentary trusts (including Henson trusts) still worth doing?

April 23rd, 2015

estate administration how longFor many reasons, the answer could still be ‘yes’ despite the Canadian government’s decision to tax almost all testamentary trusts at a higher rate.

What is a testamentary trust?

A testamentary trust is one that arises as a result of a death. A testamentary trust, including a Henson trust, can be included in a will or in a separate document. Read the rest of this entry »


Top Three Tips for Trustees of Henson Trusts

April 16th, 2015

adult child disability henson trustAt my law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa, some of the individuals that I meet are acting as the trustee of a Henson trust.  If I were asked what are the top three tips you share with trustees to make the job go as smoothly as possible, here are my answers: Read the rest of this entry »


Executor FAQs

April 2nd, 2015

At my law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa, we focus on the areas of wills, estates and trusts. Because of this, I have the opportunity to meet with a lot of executors. Here are a few of the questions I often get asked bywills ottawa estate planning executors: Read the rest of this entry »


Are Joint Bank Accounts Really Joint?

March 26th, 2015

joint assets estate planningYou may be surprised to learn that the answer is ‘not always’. This is especially the case when the joint owners of a bank or investment account are a parent and an adult child.

At my law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa, I met with Sharon. Her widowed mother had recently passed away after a brief illness. Her mother’s Will divided the estate equally between Sharon and her brother, Bill.

Unfortunately, a point of contention had arisen between the siblings. At issue were two bank accounts held jointly by Sharon and her mother. Bill was adamant that these two bank accounts should be treated as part of their mother’s estate. Sharon, on the other hand, claimed that because the bank accounts were held jointly, they automatically belonged to Sharon after their mother’s death. Read the rest of this entry »


Life Insurance and Estates: FAQs

March 12th, 2015

life insurance estate planningLife insurance can sometimes be a large part of an estate. Quite understandably, the estate planning clients that I meet with at my law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa as well as the executors (also called estate trustees) have a lot of questions about life insurance. Here are a few of those questions: Read the rest of this entry »


EIR, EAT, and Audits…Oh My!

March 5th, 2015

estate administration how longThe New Year brought with it some significant changes that will affect the duties of many executors. Our estate clients at my law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa have had a lot of questions including the following: Read the rest of this entry »