Monday, March 30, 2015

Winnipeg woman, 98, packs up a lifetime of memories

I'd like to share with you an article I read from CBC News in Winnipeg. It's about Gail Carruthers, 98 years old, who is leaving her home to move to a long-term care facility. She's downsizing her possessions, just as thousands of other seniors do when they move.

I found this article interesting for two reasons. One is that it gives us a bit of insight as to how it feels to leave your family home and its memories after so many years.

The other reason is that it shows a creative way of dealing with household possessions. In Mrs. Carruthers' case, some of her articles are going to a local museum. While this isn't an option for everyone, I hope that one or two families out there will realize that their family treasures might also be treasures to the community. Perhaps not everything needs to be sold, thrown away, or stored in someone's attic.

Click here to read the story.

The attached photo shows Mrs. Carruthers as a child standing in front of her family home. The photo accompanied the CBC News article and is credited to Mrs. Carruthers.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

What legal document does the executor have to submit to the court to close an estate?

Here is a question that I don't believe I've been asked before. That doesn't happen very often! This reader wants to know what an executor should file with the government to close an estate. Here is the question and my answer.

"What legal document does the executor have to submit to the court to close the estate’s will? Once the monies are dispersed, is there a final legal document that the executors have to give to the government? If so, does the government check to ensure that the financials being submitted are correct?"

There is no final document that asks the court to close an estate file. However, there are two documents that are usually prepared that indicate an estate is finished.

One is the Release that is signed by beneficiaries of the estate. The executor or his lawyer prepares the Release and gives it to the beneficiaries along with a full accounting of what the executor has done with the estate finances. Once the beneficiaries are happy with the accounting, they sign the Releases, give them back to the executor, and the executor pays them.

Not all executors file the Releases, but most do. It creates a court record of the fact that the beneficiaries were satisfied with the executor's work on the estate, and that the work on the estate is done.

Normally, this is the only check on the financials of the estate. There is no government department that goes through estate financials to ensure that they are correct. This is the job of the beneficiaries (which is why I find it so strange that so many executors get bent out of shape when beneficiaries ask for additional information). It's up to the beneficiaries to determine whether the house was sold at the right price, whether the assets were properly invested, whether the beneficiaries were paid the right amount, and a hundred other financial details.

Just to be accurate, I should mention that sometimes the Office of the Public Trustee reviews estate accounts, but that is not usually the case. They only get involved if they are representing the deceased or one of the beneficiaries.

The other document that signifies that an estate is complete is a Tax Clearance Certificate. This is prepared by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) at the request of the executor or his accountant once all tax returns have been filed for the estate and all taxes have been paid. CRA will check estate documents and tax returns, but their focus is only on tax. They don't check to see whether you got the right price for the car, for example. Once they are satisfied that the estate has paid all taxes, they will send the Clearance Certificate to the executor.

The Clearance Certificate isn't filed at the court. The executor keeps the certificate in his own records as proof that he took care of the obligation to pay taxes.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Why would someone buy your business?

I always enjoy estate planning with business owners, as there are always a few interesting issues to resolve and some worthwhile challenges to overcome in the process. For business owners, estate planning can take much longer than it does for non-owners. The question of what to do with the existing business is front and centre.

For those business owners who are not planning to pass the company on to others in their family, selling the business is an attractive option. However, arriving at the right sale price is really tricky. I recently came across an article on that makes a good point. It says that business owners shouldn't be asking "who will buy my business?"; they should be asking "why would someone buy my business?" In other words, what are they willing to pay for, and why?

Click here to read the article. It will give you some good ideas about what to focus on if you're considering selling.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Panel to discuss prevention of abuse of Enduring Power of Attorney

Anyone who is in the St. John's area and who has questions or concerns about Enduring Powers of Attorney might be interested in this event that is happening tonight. I'm participating in a panel that is going to explore issues around Enduring Powers of Attorney with particular focus on what changes need to be made in order to address the abuse of these documents.

The official poster says:
"A power of attorney is a good tool, but not without its pitfalls. A panel of local experts will present an overview of some of the broad medical, legal, financial, and social issues associated with the use of these documents.  The panelists will present some important considerations and raise questions to generate critical thinking. The presentation will be followed by a Question and Answer session and is open to the public."

The moderator of the event is Dr. Gail Wideman of the School of Social Work, MUN

The panelists are:
- Barry Fleming, QC, the Citizens' Representative
- Dr. Susan Mercer, MUN
- John Goodland, Deputy Public Trustee
- Lynne Butler, Wills and Estates Consultant, Lawyer, Author

The event is happening at the Fairfield (Marriott) at 199 Kenmount Road, from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

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