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Sunday, September 9, 2018

Red tape keeps grieving widow from driving clunker

I recently read an article from CBC News in which the first line was "Bureaucracy to blame for thousands of Canadians struggling with estate laws". I completely disagree with that. It's a mis-characterization of the situation discussed in the article.

In this article, which you can read by clicking here, a widow in Ontario by the name of Margaret McArthur is upset because the motor vehicles registry won't let her transfer her deceased husband's car into her name. They are going to charge her a fee and she doesn't like it. Instead of realizing that if she and her husband had taken five minutes to do some planning she wouldn't be in this situation, she followed the modern trend of blaming everyone else.

Her husband died without a will. The article didn't give his age but they'd been married for 56 years so you can estimate. The car was in his name only. When interviewed, Mrs. McArthur said she just thought it would be hers automatically. That is HER mistake. She assumed she knew the law without ever asking a lawyer or looking it up or going to a seminar or in any way informing herself.

This is what happens when people choose not to do any estate planning whatsoever. People should take responsibility for their own actions and not blame others when they fail to make any preparations at all. I know there are times when everyone gets tied up in paperwork and I know it's frustrating, but a bit of advance planning can make things a thousand times easier.

I don't want to sound too severe on Mrs. McArthur. I know that the passing away of a spouse can be overwhelming. Mrs. McArthur is certainly not the only person who has failed to plan ahead. She just happens to be the one who is trying to incite public indignation over the fact that she has to follow the same laws and procedures as the rest of us.

Bottom line: you need to make a will. There may also be other things you can do as well, such as making your assets joint with your spouse or naming a beneficiary.

If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer to discuss your estate, try to become informed. Here are some suggestions:
1. Attend a seminar about estate planning. Sometimes law firms and banks offer these, as do pension groups, companies with retiring employees, and social clubs such as CARP, Rotary, etc.
2. Read a book (not a magazine article) about estate planning.
3. Attend an Access to Justice free legal clinic
4. Check with your local seniors' resource centre
5. Make sure any source you rely on is local, up to date, and reliable.

You can access several of our radio programs about estate planning by visiting my web page at They are free and more are being added all the time.

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