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Donna Neff's Law Blog

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 »


I want to name my son as executor but he isn’t a resident of Canada…Is this a problem?

February 26th, 2015

estate planning executor non-residentI recently met with Gerta (not her real name) at my law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa to discuss her estate planning. Gerta was widowed and had two children, a son that lived in Poland and a daughter living in Ottawa. Gerta told me that she wished to appoint her son as executor of her Will as she felt he was more suited to the job than her daughter.

I explained to Gerta that although she could name her son as executor (also called an ‘estate trustee’), it could result in considerably more cost and delay for her estate. Read the rest of this entry »


I have a son with a disability. Can I open an RDSP for him?

February 19th, 2015

rdsp ottawa will lawyerAt my law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa, I often get asked this question by parents and other loved ones of a child or adult with a disability. The short answer is, it depends.

I recently met with John and Linda (not their real names) to discuss their estate planning. They were considering whether a Registered Disability Support Plan (‘RDSP’) made sense for their disabled adult son, Peter. Given his limitations, however, they didn’t think he would have the capacity to open it for himself. They wondered if they could open it for him.

As I explained to John and Linda, the answer depends upon a few factors: Read the rest of this entry »


I’m named as my father’s Power of Attorney…How do I know when to start acting?

February 12th, 2015

power of attorney estate planningI recently met with sisters, Sue and Janice (not their real names), at my law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa. Their father had signed a Power of Attorney for Property and a Power of Attorney for Personal Care the previous year. Both documents appointed Sue and Janice to act jointly as their father’s attorneys or substitute decision-makers. Their father had recently suffered a stroke but was doing quite well and his prognosis was good. They weren’t sure if and when they should start acting under the power of attorney documents.

As I explained to Sue and Janice, many power of attorney documents intended to let someone (the ‘attorney’) look after financial matters (using a Power of Attorney for Property) do not have a condition requiring the grantor (the person who signed the power of attorney) to be mentally incapable. If such a condition does exist, it is usually stated in the Power of Attorney for Property document.  As a result, if the attorney has the original, signed Power of Attorney for Property and there are no such conditions in the document, the attorney can use it.

Some banks have their own conditions that must also be met before the bank will recognize the attorney’s authority.  For example, the bank will want to see the attorney’s ID and may require the document to be reviewed by the bank’s legal department which can take several weeks.  Some banks may want to contact the lawyer who drafted the document to verify certain information.

I went on to explain to Sue and Janice that unlike a Power of Attorney for Property, a Power of Attorney for Personal Care can only be used if the grantor is incapable of a particular decision regarding health care, nutrition, shelter, clothing, hygiene or safety.  The attorney for personal care may, for example, make a decision about which long term care residence the grantor will be moved into if the grantor is incapable of making that decision.

I confirmed to Sue and Janice that the attorney named in a Power of Attorney document must have the original, signed document in his or her possession. I also commended them for seeking legal advice before beginning to act under their father’s Power of Attorney documents.

Have you been named in a Power of Attorney document and aren’t sure if you should begin acting or how that works? If so, email info@nefflawoffice.com or call 613.836.9915 to make an appointment to meet with me. We will review your situation and advise you of your duties and responsibilities to ensure your role as attorney goes as smoothly as possible.




Donna Neff, JD, CS, T.E.P., is a lawyer, a Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts Law, and a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.  Donna has been practising in this area of the law since 1996.  Her firm, Neff Law Office Professional Corporation, is an Ottawa-based boutique law firm specializing in wills, powers of attorney, trusts, including Henson Trusts, estates, and adult guardianship among other matters. Reproduction of this blog is permitted if the author is credited. 

If you have questions or if you would like more information, please call us at 613 836-9915. This blog is not intended to be legal advice but contains general information.  Please consult a lawyer or other professional to determine how the information in this blog might apply to you.


My grandmother left me an inheritance and I’m receiving ODSP…What should I do?

February 5th, 2015

I recently met with Kate (not her real name) at my law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa. odsp inheritance disability trustShe explained to me that her grandmother had recently passed away and left her a cash gift of $100,000. Kate was concerned about what effect the gift may have on the benefits she receives from the Ontario Disability Support Program (‘ODSP’). She had not yet received her gift but, acting on the advice of her father, she had made an appointment to meet with me sooner rather than later.

I told Kate that coming to me before receiving her gift was the right thing to do. It was unfortunate that Kate’s grandmother had not been advised to include a Henson Trust in her Will for Kate’s benefit. There are, however, some steps that Kate can take to protect her ODSP benefits. Read the rest of this entry »


Should I Have Two Wills?

January 29th, 2015

estate planning willThe Ontario government recently brought into force new regulations that change how it deals with estate administration tax (commonly known as probate fees). As of January 1st, 2015, an executor (or estate trustee) is required to complete and file an Estate Information Return (EIR) with the Ontario Ministry of Finance.  This is in addition to the court Application for a Certificate of Estate Trustee (commonly known as probate).

If an executor fails to file the EIR or if the executor files the EIR and is audited and found to have made “false or misleading statements” on the EIR, the executor is liable, on conviction, to a fine of at least $1,000 plus up to twice the estate administration tax that was not paid. Imprisonment of not more than two years is also possible. Audits can occur up to four years after the court Certificate has been issued. Read the rest of this entry »