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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Who do leave my estate to if I don't have kids?

From time to time I meet clients who don't have spouses or children and they want ideas about where to leave their estates once they pass away. The first thought most people have is to divide the estate among their siblings, and that is a viable idea.

A variation on that is to leave money in trust for family members such as nieces and nephews, with instructions that the trust be used to pay for their education.

Another popular idea is to leave some or all of your estate to charities. Some people have causes that are dear to their hearts because a charity helped them or family members in the past. I met one client who is leaving several million dollars to a group of charities that deal with different aspects of illiteracy, as well as public libraries, because he struggled with reading his whole life.

Many clients like to leave money to the college or university they graduated from. It is possible to use your Will to set up a scholarship at a particular faculty at a particular school to help future students who may not be well off financially.

You can benefit several charities and get a tax break for yourself now by giving money to a charitable foundation such as Scotiabank`s Aqueduct Foundation or the Edmonton Community Foundation. In this kind of arrangement, your monetary gift is invested and the interest on it is used each year to give charitable gifts to the charities of your choice. The principal is not used, except to generate more income. You can then use your Will to give the rest of your estate to the foundation and continue on your pattern of giving.

To get ideas about which charities are out there and what kinds of activities they are involved in, go to . For more in-depth information on charitable organizations, go to

If you are interested in any organization in Canada and want to know whether it`s a registered charity or not, check out the Canada Revenue Agency website at

Sometimes people wonder whether the government will take their estates if they don`t have a Will and don`t have a spouse or children. The government does not become a beneficiary of your estate unless and until absolutely no relatives can be found. The Intestate Succession Act of Alberta sets out who gets your estate if you die without a Will. If you do not have a spouse or children, the Act says your estate will go to your parents, your siblings and eventually more distant relatives. The better idea is to make a Will that sets out your wishes.

You should ask your estate-planning lawyer for ideas and talk over the possibilities.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lynne - had I known about you before I would have hired you as my lawyer. I have a lawyer for my case but a 2nd opinion is always good to seek... I've searched your blog for info pertaining to illiteracy but found nothing that speaks close to my particular case... My mother was illiterate, her Will was not read aloud in front of the witnesses, we are trying to have the will void because of this fact but literacy or illiteracy is hard to prove after the person has passed. Any advise or your experience examples/insights is greatly appreciated.


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