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Donna Neff's Law Blog

Top Ten Reasons Why Estate Planning Should Top Your New Year’s Resolutions

January 14th, 2015

resolutions ottawa estate planning lawyerDid you know that it is the ancient Babylonians probably made the first New Year’s resolutions? It is thought that the most common resolution for an early Babylonian was to return borrowed farm equipment. Much has changed since then. Today, popular New Year’s resolutions include losing weight, spending less, quitting smoking, getting a better job, and getting fit.

Although you may not have included estate planning as one of your New Year’s resolutions, here are my top ten reasons why having a Will and Powers of Attorney should be at the top of your list: Read the rest of this entry »


What is the Estate Administration Tax? How Can It Be Avoided?

December 23rd, 2014

estate administration tax probateIn most cases, an Executor (now called an Estate Trustee) cannot deal with the assets of a deceased person without the formal authority to do so.  The Estate Trustee will not have this authority until he or she has been granted a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee (previously referred to as ‘probate’). This is a document issued by the court.  It is obtained by submitting an Application for a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee to the court along with a certified cheque or bank draft to pay the required estate administration tax (previously referred to as ‘probate fees’). Read the rest of this entry »


Help….I’m acting as an executor and I don’t know where to start. What should I do first?

December 11th, 2014

executor estate trustee dutiesAt times, acting as an executor, or more properly an ‘estate trustee’, can be overwhelming. Many of the clients that I meet at my law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa feel that this is especially true in the beginning.  In the weeks following the deceased’s death, the work required of an executor is the most labour-intensive. This feeling of being overwhelmed can also be compounded by the fact that the executor may be mourning the loss of a loved one and is probably doing a job that he or she has never done before.

With a seemingly endless number of tasks to be done at the beginning, it is often difficult for an executor to know where to begin. Here is a list of tasks that an executor should make a priority: Read the rest of this entry »


Good Record-Keeping A Must For Executors

December 4th, 2014

executor estate trustee record keepingActing as an executor (also called an ‘estate trustee’) is a big job and comes with a lot of duties and responsibilities. When I meet with executors at my law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa, I stress that one of the most important duties of an executor is to keep detailed records and receipts of all transactions involving the estate. This includes a detailed list of the assets of the deceased and the values of those assets on the date of death.

Good record-keeping is important for a number of reasons: Read the rest of this entry »


Executor Compensation FAQs

November 27th, 2014

 estate executor compensationAs we focus exclusively in the area of wills and estates at our law office in the Kanata-Stittsville area of Ottawa, we meet with a lot of people who have been appointed as executor (formally called an ‘estate trustee’) of a loved one’s estate. Many executors aren’t sure whether they can be paid and, if they can, how much and when. Here are some of the most common questions we are asked by executors about executor compensation. Read the rest of this entry »


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 »