You Need a Will Prepared by a Lawyer
The Miskin Law Office prepares Wills and Powers of Attorney for individuals in Ontario, Canada. If you live in another jurisdiction or most of your assets are outside of Ontario your Will should be prepared by a lawyer in the other jurisdiction. That is because estate law is different in each Province.
Some people will need a Will in more than one jurisdiction. We draft the Will after a first personal meeting with a lawyer and the client to assess a client’s situation and needs in order to best meet the individual requirements and wishes of the client. The purpose is to simplify future estate issues to ensure a smooth transition of assets which will reduce the need for future legal services, prevent disputes and challenges, and also plan for reducing taxes payable after death. We encourage clients to prepare wills that do not lead to family disputes which can ruin relationships and cost a lot of money. Where there already is an estate dispute we work with clients to resolve the issues sensibly and avoid costly court proceedings. If there is a dispute, mediation is a big part of our services and Murray Miskin conducts mediations and also represents clients in Estate Mediation.
Murray Miskin also acts as an arbitrator in estate disputes. Estate litigation can be very costly and time-consuming and we usually refer complex or unresolvable disputes to lawyers who specialize in such litigation. The best thing is to avoid disputes with properly prepared legal documents. A Will is a document that you can sign with your binding instructions as to who will receive your assets after your death. It names an Estate Trustee (formerly known as Executor) whose responsibility after your death is to manage the estate in accordance with your wishes. You may also propose guardians for your underage children and indicate preferred funeral arrangements in your will. We often prepare specialized wills for people who have children with disabilities or special needs. Until your death, the will may be revoked or changed so long as you are mentally competent. Minor changes can be done by Codicils which cost less than a new will. Wills should be redone immediately on a marriage breakup. If you do not have a valid will the law determines what happens to your estate without consideration of your preferences. This may be fine for many families where there are no common-law relationships. If you are living common-law or there are children of prior relationships involved it would be wise to obtain legal advice immediately. A Power of Attorney for a property is a document you can sign which gives power only in your life over your assets to another person whom you may designate. That authority may be set up to be effective any time or only if you become incapacitated. It may be restricted to dealing with or not dealing with certain matters. You may have more than one person designated so both or either may sign for you. You may name alternates and specify whether the attorney has a right to be paid for what they do. It does not take away your own rights to sign on your own behalf.
A Power of Attorney is a critical document to have should you ever become totally incapacitated or suffer a loss of mental competence. A Power of Attorney expires on your death.
You may also sign a separate Power of Attorney for Personal Care where you authorize another person (again with an alternate) to make health care choices for you when you are unable to do so yourself. This is sometimes called a Living Will. In it, you may state your preferences on treatment issues and life support questions. Many people who want these documents prepared have strong opinions on the possible choices their doctors and family members will have should they become sick to the point where they may have no hope of recovery and may become a burden on others. Some people do not want their next of kin to decide what to do but instead, they may have a close friend they wish to involve in decisions. You may also name a doctor or type of doctor you wish to have assessed you and give advice when critical decisions must be made.
We strongly emphasize the need to use a lawyer to prepare any of the above document to ensure it is valid and does what you want it to do. Cheap Will kits are available but pose a serious danger, in that, what you prepare will be invalid unless properly done following strict legal requirements. For the money you save doing it by yourself is not worth the risk. In preparing these documents we always have a lawyer meet with you for as long as necessary to advise you and take careful instructions to make sure the document prepared is what you want it to be. We generally bill and expect full or partial payment by cash or cheque at the first meeting. It is important to have a fully qualified and experienced lawyer discuss your intentions with you to ensure that the will is done properly. We do not believe it is sufficient to give instructions to a member of the lawyer’s staff in a meeting or by phone. It is important that the lawyer assess capacity issues at a meeting to prevent future disputes of wills. This is particularly true for people who are elderly, have mental health issues, or wish to make unusual bequests. We sometimes require clients to get a doctor’s note or an assessment on capacity ahead of signing a will. At a later meeting, the documents are signed in accordance with Ontario legal requirements with the lawyer present to oversee, explain the document and discuss any last-minute changes. In cases of complicated wills with unusual provisions or special requirements due to personal circumstances, we may charge extra and we will let you know and decide how to proceed at our no cost or obligation meeting in advance of actual will preparation.
Our usual fees (including basic planning for the estate and including disbursements) are set out below with 13% HST added to any fee:
- Wills: One will $300, a pair for $500
- Codicils (Will Changes): The fee for one is $150, $250 for a pair
- Power of Attorney: One document of each type is $200, a pair of each type are $300
The above fees are discounted when multiple documents are prepared. Clients pay the fee on a first meeting to discuss wills and then the documents are reviewed and signed on a second visit. We usually store the original signed Will and give clients 2 copies. For Powers of Attorney, we usually make 3 originals and the client keeps 2 and we hold the 3rd. We encourage you to get your will done soon. Nobody knows when their will is going to be needed or when they may lose the capacity to sign a will or power of attorney.
Some clients require personalized estate planning for their special situations. We may recommend that you establish a Trust to deal with your situation. We may refer you to accountants or other experts to help with planning. This will cost extra but probably save later costs in taxes paid by the estate and provide more structured plans for your family and future generations to preserve wealth. We can assist you with up-to-date information about recent changes in tax structures. Please call and make an appointment for Estate Planning. The first meeting is free and with no obligation. Plan carefully for the next generation.