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Planning a Will? Here are the Top 5 Questions to Ask an Estate Lawyer

Will and estate lawyers fulfill a much needed and often overlooked service.


BCBusiness CBM Lawyers

Contemplating one’s ultimate fate is never easy, and it’s a reason why estate planning is put on the back burner so often. However, the consequences of failing to properly plan are even more unpleasant and can range from legal disputes to the estate falling into the wrong hands. Will and estate lawyers may not be on the top of most people’s minds, but these professionals fulfill a much needed and often overlooked service.

That’s why CBM Lawyers, a full-service law firm that has operated in the Fraser Valley and served British Columbia for over 40 years, offers extensive wills, estates, and trusts services. Recently, associates Lesley Russell and Michael Dupuis answered the five most common estate planning and probate questions, as part of the firm’s commitment to providing timely, transparent and detailed legal advice.

1) Is probate the same thing as estate planning or administration?

“Probate is a part of estate administration,” Dupuis says. Estate administration pertains to the overall management of an estate (dealing with the funeral, disposing of assets), whereas probate is a legal process in which the validity and authenticity of a will—and the executor—are determined. 

2) How often should you update your will?

“You should review your will at least every five years or when there is a major change in your life,” Russell says. The changes can range from getting married or divorced, starting or winding down a business, or even winning the lotto or going broke. “Changes big or small may need to be reflected in your estate planning, and if you are not sure there is no harm in asking an estate planning lawyer for his/her opinion.”

3) How do I choose my estate administrator?

“You should choose someone you trust, who is familiar with your life, who lives nearby and who is willing to take on the task,” Dupuis says. This could be a spouse, one’s children, or a trusted family member or friend.

Russell points out that a trust company is a suitable option, and most major financial institutions offer executor services. “Also, the Public Guardian and Trustee may be an option of last resort.”

4) Which assets require a probate lawyer?

Assets that require probate typically include land and estates worth $25,000 or more that did not pass by survivorship. Some financial institutions allow their deposits to be transferred to a surviving spouse in absence of probate, but at their discretion. “Another way to look at it is that the institution that manages the assets—the land title office, bank or finance company—will determine whether a grant of probate from the estate is required,” Dupuis says.

5) How can I make the probate process easy for my executor and I?

“Be organized and patient,” Russell says. “Your executor will need to appreciate there is lots of work involved, and it will not be quick and may not be easy, especially if people want to fight about the estate.

“Keep your affairs organized and your will updated, and make sure what you want is clear, that there is no ambiguity in your wishes or legal directions. The more complicated your estate, the more planning it will need.” Also, make sure your executor has a record of your funeral wishes, assets and liabilities, so they can quickly review this information and track down the third parties needed to complete the requisite tasks.

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Created by BCBusiness in partnership with CBM Lawyers