Understanding Estate Planning in Nova Scotia

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Understanding Estate Planning in Nova Scotia: What Do All These Terms Mean?

If you’ve put off creating a Will because you find it an overwhelming task, we’re here to help. Creating a Will is extremely important as it safeguards your estate from being distributed as someone else sees fit (in accordance to the Intestate Succession Act). The initial cost of a Will is also minimal compared to the costs that are involved if you do not have a Will. When estate planning in Nova Scotia, having a Will is the bare minimum that is recommended. 

Let’s start with defining some of the terms involved in creating a Will.

Testator: the person making the Will.

Executor: also newly referred to as the Personal Representative, is responsible for managing the estate and executing the instructions outlined in your Will. It is advisable to designate an alternate Executor in case your initial choice is unable to fulfill the role. We recommend that you discuss with the chosen executor that you have selected them to avoid choosing someone who may be unwilling. Ideally, at least one of the executors should be of a younger or similar age to you. Another thing to keep in mind is the location of the executor as the executor may need to travel to the place of residence of the testator to address issues related to managing the property of the testator. We currently do not recommend US citizens or US residents as executors for Canadian Wills due to complicated tax laws.

Trustee: is an individual or entity appointed to manage and oversee a trust established for the benefit of designated beneficiaries, which may include minors. The trustee is responsible for safeguarding and administering the assets within the trust in accordance with the terms outlined in the Will’s trust. Their duties include making financial decisions, investing assets, and distributing funds to beneficiaries as specified in the trust.

Guardian of minors: This may be the same person as the trustee, but does not have to be. It is an individual appointed to care for and make decisions on behalf of minor children in the event that both parents are unable to fulfill their parental responsibilities due to death, incapacity, or other reasons. The guardian is typically named in the Will and may be responsible for the minor’s day-to-day care, living arrangements, education, and general well-being. 

Specific gifts: This is not a required part of estate planning in Nova Scotia, but if there are identifiable items you wish to have given to specific people, you may list them in your Will. These could include things such as real estate, jewelry, vehicles or sentimental items. If you own them at the time of your death, they will go to the specified people. The special gifts section is also where you would leave instructions for the care of your pet, such as who will care for them, and if that person is to receive a monetary gift to help with the care. These gifts are given out first. Then the “rest and residue”  of the estate (the remaining bulk of the estate) is given to the named heirs.

Low value sentimental items can be handwritten by the testator in an informal memorandum after the Wills are completed. This allows the testator to change their instructions without having to pay for the cost of changing the Will. The memorandum acts as guidance for the executor although it is not necessarily binding on the executor.

Real estate: Special consideration should be given to how you designate real estate. Your lawyer can go through the options with you, but something to consider is how the properties’ financial obligations (such as mortgages, liens, or debts) will be handled, whether they should be paid off from the estate or transferred along with the property.

RRSP/ Life insurance: The designation of who is the beneficiary for your RRSP or life insurance policy can be written in the Will, but it is not a required part of estate planning in Nova Scotia as you will have made this designation with the bank or insurance company already. If you would like to change the beneficiary, you can do so with the provider, or in your Will. The most recent update, regardless of where it is made, will determine the beneficiary.

Residual beneficiary:  is an individual or entity named in a Will to receive the remainder of the estate after specific gifts, debts, taxes, and other obligations have been satisfied. This will include any remaining property, assets, or funds not designated for specific individuals or purposes in the Will.

Instructions for memorial: On a rare occasion people wish to include this in their Will. We advise against it as the Will is often not read until after the funeral. We would instead recommend discussing your wishes with your loved ones, even providing them with written instructions if you have specific ideas for how you wish it to be handled. 

Where to keep your Will: There is only one “original” copy of your Will so it is important to keep it in a safe place. We recommend that this is kept in a fire-proof container, but not in a safety deposit box at the bank–the executor would need the Will to get into this box upon the death of the testator. We also recommend that you inform your loved ones and the executor, where the Will can be found and you may provide them with a scanned copies if you wish.

Additional considerations when estate planning in Nova Scotia:

Now that we have identified the different parts of the Will and what the different titles mean, let’s discuss additional considerations you should make when estate planning in Nova Scotia. While the Will covers the areas we described above, it does not cover any of your assets or medical decisions while you are alive. For this reason, we recommend not just creating a Will, but a full estate package. This package will also include:

Enduring Power of Attorney: a document that will appoint someone else to take care of your legal and financial affairs should you become unable to do so.

Personal Directive: a document that will lay out your medical wishes and appoint someone else to take care of health care decisions should you become unable to do so.

Estate planning in Nova Scotia made easy with Brookshire Law Office

The last factors to consider in estate planning in Nova Scotia are time and cost. At Brookshire Law Office we keep it simple. We offer a free consultation with you over the phone. After this, to complete the Will or estate package, we will then meet one time for a flat fee to complete the documents. One call, one visit, one flat fee; that’s how we make life easy. 

For an individual, a full estate package costs $725 plus HST. For a couple the full estate package will be $1095 plus HST. Please visit our estate planning page for a full chart of our fees should you wish to know the price of each individual document. Or if you’re ready, book your free 15 minute consultation.

The above is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice — contact a lawyer to discuss your personal circumstances and learn your options.

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