Sunday, October 19, 2014

Provinces spend millions each year to ensure that Canadians get a proper burial

What happens when a person dies in Canada, but cannot be identified? And what if their identity is known, but they have no money for a funeral? What if their loved ones won't get involved?
In Alberta alone, last year there were 1,577 individuals who had nobody to provide them with a funeral.

Provinces have programs in place to ensure that everyone gets a dignified burial. Click  here to read a story from the National Post about these programs.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ontario woman and her husband charged with elder abuse of her mother

There is a very sad, very serious case being heard in court in Ontario this week. Viola Simonds was in her 70s and had dementia and other medical issues. Her daughter and son-in-law had a Power of Attorney for Personal Care for Ms. Simonds. However, they didn't follow the doctor's advice, and didn't seek out either home care or a nursing facility for Ms. Simonds. They have now been charged under the Criminal Code for failing to provide the necessities of life to Ms. Simonds, who was found in her daughter's home covered in vomit, urine, and feces, in a room with the window painted black. Ms. Simonds has since passed away.

Click here to read a blog entry from Ontario  lawyers Whaley Estate Litigation, which contains links to further articles and photos about the case.

Though I am deeply saddened and upset at Ms. Simonds' situation, I am glad that the matter is going to trial. For too long, the neglect or poor treatment of vulnerable older people has been something that people turned away from, calling it a family matter. But if your family members aren't going to look after you, the rest of us have to intervene.

After all this time I've spent working with seniors, I understand that people are capable of treating their own parents worse than they'd treat an animal, but it still makes me sick.

Great response to For My Family, With Love

I'm pleased to report that the initial response to my new workbook entitled For My Family, With Love has been all positive! Thanks to those of you who have checked it out. I'm always open to hearing feedback about your use of this book (or any of my other books), so please feel free to comment here if you wish.

I'm using a copy of the book myself, to leave behind for my own family, so it's a book based on 30 years of experience in the wills industry, as well as on the experience of a mom.

Those of you who haven't checked it out yet, keep reading to find out more, or click here. I'd be pleased to answer any questions you might have about it, either before or after you purchase it.

For My Family, With Love is a workbook I developed based on my experience of what it's like for executors to step in and begin the job of looking after an estate. Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know that I take a practical, down-to-earth approach to estates, and that I'm in favour of tools and materials that help an executor to get the job done. That's why I developed this book.

Executors have a million details to look after. Wouldn't it be great if all the information about assets, debts, joint property, medical and legal contacts, passwords, loans to family members, spare keys, and all of the rest was to be found in one place? Wouldn't it be marvelous if Mom or Dad wrote down where they keep things, who has a key to the house, who walks the dog for them, where they pick up their mail?

Having all of that information at hand would relieve hours upon hours of searching and asking questions. It would save an executor untold stress and frustration. This 92-page workbook contains space for all of the information a parent, spouse, or grandparent would like to leave for those who will look after the estate. You could use one of these books for yourself, or give one to a parent or relative for them to use. Or, you could get one for a parent and you could fill it in together.

More than that, this book contains places for Mom or Dad to write personal notes that will be read after they have passed away. The notes could be to the kids, or to anyone else who is important. They could be words of love, encouragement, or guidance.

The book is coil-bound to lie flat for easy use. The sections are organized in a logical way and clearly set out so that the book is simple to follow. There is no legal jargon, just suggestions for what your loved ones will need to know after you're gone.

Here are the sections of the book:
Part 1 – My family
Part 2 – Contacts my family might need
Part 3 – Passwords my family might need
Part 4 – My financial assets
Part 5 – My sources of income
Part 6 – My debts and liabilities
Part 7 – My insurance policies
Part 8 – My wishes for funeral, burial, or cremation
Part 9 – Legal documents that I have in place
Part 10 – Special arrangements
Part 11 – Where to find important things

This workbook will accommodate your information, whether your estate is simple, or whether you own a business and rental homes. It will let you describe your family relationships whether they are simple or complex.

As you can see, this book would also be a wonderfully useful tool for someone acting under a Power of Attorney. It would help ensure that nothing is missed.

What a gift this book would be for your kids, grandkids, or executor. Believe me, they'd bless you for the help!

Available in paperback as of August 5, 2014.

Friday, October 17, 2014

If the executor doesn't want the job, can she hand it off to the sole beneficiary?

When a will names an executor who probably doesn't want the job and there is no alternate executor named, what happens? Can the executor hand off her duties to the sole beneficiary? A reader recently asked me this question, as well as a question of how that might be accomplished. His question and my answer are below:

"My wife is an only child. Her mother is alive, but father has passed away. Her mother has a 20-year-old will that names her sister-in-law as executor but my wife is now the sole remaining beneficiary. My wife and her mother get along just fine, but her mother is very uncomfortable discussing wills and estates. I have two questions:

1. If her mother passes away, her sister-in-law is named as executor. The two are not close and I'm fairly certain that if my wife offered to take on the responsibility of executor, the sister-in-law would have no problem with that. Is that something that could be arranged through a lawyer if both parties agreed?

2. What if the sister-in-law predeceases my wife's mother? There is no other backup executor named in the will. Would my wife be able to petition a court to be named executor or could this be done somehow through a lawyer?"

If your mother-in-law passes away leaving your sister-in-law as executor, it is not possible for the sister-in-law to give up executorship and pass it to someone else without the involvement of the court. Your wife and the sister-in-law cannot arrange it by mutual agreement.

Should your sister-in-law not wish to act as executor, she has the legal right to renounce the appointment, as she cannot be forced to take it on. However, she can't decide to whom the role of executor may be passed. Nor can she name anyone as a co-executor. It's just not her decision.

If she renounces, this would legally be the same as if she had predeceased your mother-in-law, in the sense that there is no back-up executor named to replace her. In either case, your wife could apply to the court to be the administrator of the estate. You mentioned that she is the only child, so she would be the person with the closest degree of kinship to her mother. Her position as sole beneficiary also provides her with legal standing when it comes to the question of who may apply. Nobody else would have a legal right greater than your wife to apply to the court.

A lawyer cannot make your wife the administrator. Only the court can do that for a person who passes away leaving no executor. However, not every will needs to be put through probate, and I would encourage your sister-in-law, when the time comes, to see a lawyer to ask whether she even needs to go through the process. This will depend on the type of assets owned by your  mother-in-law, their value, and the ownership arrangements (e.g. joint, solely owned, designated beneficiary). It may also depend on how good the will is, and whether a 20-year-old will is really recent enough to reflect changes and updates to wills and estates law.

It's too bad that your mother-in-law doesn't want to discuss these matters or make changes, but she certainly isn't the only person who is uncomfortable with the topic of her own mortality. I'm glad you and your wife are respecting your mother-in-law's right to decide for herself what is to be done, even if it really isn't the best decision she could make.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

30 Unusual Wills

It's Friday and time for a smile. The following video is from  and is full of interesting, unusual, and funny last wishes. Enjoy!

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