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Estate Planning for Single People


Author: Jonathan Hooper

Everyone should have a will, but this is especially true for single people. Everyone who dies without having a valid will dies intestate. This means that provincial law decides who is eligible to administer your Estate and who the beneficiaries of your Estate are. These laws may not reflect your wishes. It also creates difficulties for the person acting as the administrator of your Estate, such as the need to post a bond to even apply for the role of administrator.

Choosing the right person to administer your Estate (your Executor) is also an important decision. You can appoint a family member, friend or even a professional trust company to act as your Executor. Your Executor should be someone you trust. It is also best if your Executor lives in the same province as you do. This avoids the need for the Executor to post a bond and it is typically easier for someone local to administer your Estate, than if someone tries to do so from a distance.

If you are an entrepreneur or a business owner, it is important to have a succession plan in place for your business. If you have business partners this may involve selling your share of the business to the surviving partner(s). If you are the sole owner of the business and you want your business to continue after you pass away, you should decide if you want your executor to sell the business or whether you want someone else to inherit it as a beneficiary.

If you are a single person with dependent children, there are a number of important things to have in place. You need to decide who you want the guardian of your children to be. If your children’s other parent is alive, they may be the logical choice. On the other hand if you don’t want the children’s other parent to be guardian, you should state this in your will. Although you cannot legally appoint a guardian to your dependent children in a will, it provides a legal basis for the person(s) you name as intended guardian(s) in your will to apply for legal guardianship.

One of the ways for single people with dependent children to provide for those children is a testamentary trust. A testamentary trust can be set up in your will from the proceeds of your Estate. A testamentary trust allows you to appoint a trustee to manage the trust funds on behalf of your minor children. A testamentary trust has great flexibility. You can either limit the use of money for specific purposes, such as clothing, education and other necessities of life, or give the trustee broad discretion to use the money for the benefit of your children as they see fit.

If you have a dependent child who is disabled or has exceptional needs, you may consider setting up a Henson trust. This is a special kind of trust for persons with disabilities that is designed not to interfere with a disabled person’s ability to receive government funding.

There are also some very practical things that single people can do to make the administration of their Estate smoother for their Executors. It makes an Executor’s job much easier if they know what assets are in the Estate. This can be done by making a list of financial assets such as bank accounts, investments and life insurance policies, and putting this list with the will. It is also helpful to give a copy of the will to the Executor and tell them where the original is kept so they know where to find it. It is also helpful to let the Executor know if you want to be buried or cremated. This can be done in the will, as well as by communicating your wishes to the Executor when you give them a copy of the will.

For further information, please contact:
Jonathan Hooper
t: 902.405.3318
e: jhooper@pattersonlaw.ca

This article is intended for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion. If you require further information or legal advice, Patterson Law would be pleased to discuss the issues addressed in this publication.

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