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Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Law Show: Common mistakes in home-made estate planning

Today's episode of The Law Show is now online and available for listening. This time (July 21, 2017), we talked about mistakes that people make when doing their own estate planning and their own wills. Bet you'd find it enlightening! Click here and scroll down to the episode you want (the latest episodes are on the top of the list). If you want to see which topics were covered on which dates, check our list on the right  hand side of this blog.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Finding and working with a lawyer: The Law Show new episode is now online

Our most recent episode (July 13, 2017) of the Law Show is online and ready for listening. This time we talked about lawyers - where to find one, what to look for, how to keep costs low, what to do if your bill is too high, and much more. Click here to listen to this and other episodes. If you want to know which topics were talked about on which dates, refer to the list down the right-hand side of this blog.

Monday, July 17, 2017

An heir's guide to furniture, china, glassware, art and more

Executors who are preparing estate inventories often find household items the hardest to valuate. This is especially true of collections of items such as china, silver, books, coins, or stamps that you know the deceased spent thousands of dollars to purchase. My clients have told me time and again that household items that they expected would be valuable turn out to have no value or very little.

This is often a tough situation for executors and family members because there is a sentimental value to some items. The wedding china that your Mom picked out so carefully and lovingly 60 years ago may seem as if it should be priceless, but to the rest of the world, it's not.

I've found a good article at that talks about how to place a value on some of the items our parents collected and that we are now dealing with in their estates. The article gets pretty specific about individual manufacturers' names and useful websites, so it's definitely worth a look. Click here to see the article.

By the way, this site has other good articles on similar topics that executors and beneficiaries alike might find useful.

If I could add one tip that applies to my fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in dealing with estate collections, it would be to check with the Centre for Newfoundland Studies at Memorial University. They might be interested in books, pamphlets, photographs, slides, magazines, videos, catalogs, souvenir programs, menus from old restaurants, posters, maps, dairies, or correspondence, as long as those items have something to add to the history of our province. You won't get money for them, but they'll have found a home.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Predatory marriages "increasingly common problem" in Ontario

I have recently read an interesting article by Toronto lawyers Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag in which they discuss predatory marriages.  Click here to read it. Apparently some crooks have figured out that it's easier to marry an elderly person to get access to their estate than it is to persuade them to make a new will in their favour. This is now apparently an activity that is increasing.

In most Canadian provinces, a will that is in place is revoked when the person whose will it is gets married. Therefore even if the new predatory spouse doesn't persuade his or her new spouse to make a new will, they will still come out on top. All provinces give a preferential share of an estate to the spouse of the deceased when someone dies without a will. And if the deceased had no children, the spouse gets everything.

I can't really see an answer to this issue. I'm sure any governmental attempt to control who can marry whom would amount to a grievous infringement of personal freedom. This leaves it up to the family to try to look after a vulnerable senior, but I expect that would have limited success. For one thing, we all know what  it's like to try to talk someone out of something they have decided to do. That's assuming you even know about it in time; anyone can marry quickly and quietly without telling their relatives in advance. And of course, there are plenty of vulnerable seniors who don't have anyone around to protect them.

This seems like a crime whose time has come.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Can the guardian of an adult sell the adult's property after she has passed away?

Recently I received this question from a reader about the powers of an adult guardian. I'm often surprised at how unclear people really are about what authority they have or don't have under legal documents. In this case, I'm glad someone is asking a question! Here's the question and my comments:

"Can my father who was the legal guardian of his mother (passed away from Alzheimer's) sell her property?"

The short answer is "no".

An adult guardianship comes to an end when the dependent adult (in this case, your grandmother) dies. End of story. Your father cannot sell  her property without committing fraud.

While your grandmother was alive, your father might have  had the power to sell her property, depending on exactly what role he was given. In some provinces, a guardian is granted the power to make decisions about both personal and financial matters. In other provinces a legal guardianship is separate from a trusteeship and does not give anyone authority to deal with property.

Only an executor or court-appointed estate administrator can sell the property of a deceased person. Whoever is the executor for your grandmother needs to step up and take control of the situation. If there was no will and therefore no executor, then someone needs to ask the court to appoint them as administrator.

P.S. Please don't add questions on the posts that have warnings in red that the comments section is full. Because they are full...

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