Wills & Estates

Wills and Estate Planning

Every adult Canadian should have a Will. A Will allows you to control who you would like to administer your estate, to receive your assets and to be the guardian of any children under the age of 19 if you die. If you pass away without a Will, your estate will be administered pursuant to provincial legislation and your beneficiaries may be subjected to unnecessary costs, delays and sometimes litigation.

Ratcliff lawyers consider each client’s particular situation and objectives when creating an estate plan. Based on this, we advise on how best to organise your affairs so that your wishes are carried out.

Some important considerations may include:

  • choice of executors
  • guardians for minor children and trusts for younger family members
  • tax implications (including the use of testamentary trusts for income splitting)
  • issues surrounding second marriages and “blended families”
  • discretionary trusts for a disabled family member
  • planned giving to charities
  • challenges relating to foreign assets or beneficiaries
  • succession of a family business
  • consideration of BC probate fees
  • the use of lifetime trusts, including alter ego, joint partner and general family trusts

We also identify potentially litigious issues, including claims under British Columbia’s Wills Variation Act and we develop strategies to minimize or eliminate potential family conflict.

If you already have an estate plan, it is important to review your plan from time to time to ensure its currency as your life circumstances, and the law, changes.

Incapacity Planning

It is important to plan for circumstances where you are no longer able, due to either a mental or physical condition, to take care of your property or to properly attend to your health and personal care. To assist people facing this situation, powers of attorney and Representation Agreements can be valuable tools.

Powers of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a document in which you can appoint another person of your choosing (called an “Attorney”) to handle your financial and legal decisions. An Enduring Power of Attorney is a power of Attorney that continues even after you have become incapable.

Representation Agreements

A Representation Agreement allows you to designate someone you trust (called a “Representative”) to make health and personal care decisions on your behalf. The appointment remains valid should you become mentally incompetent. If you have any particular health care wishes, you can include them in a Representation Agreement.

Committeeship Applications

When someone has lost the ability to care for their own financial and personal decisions, but did not prepare a power of attorney, we help families obtain the order of Committeeship from the Court. The order provides the necessary authority to manage the affairs of the incompetent person. We can also provide advice on dealing with the ongoing administration and the regular report to the Court that will be required.

Estate Administration

When someone close to you dies, sorting out their assets and affairs can be daunting and distressing. Let us help you through this period.

We are able to provide a variety of services regarding the administration of an estate or trust, including:

  • obtaining grants of probate (if there is a Will) or Letters of Administration (if there is no Will)
  • advising Executors, Administrators and Trustees in discharging their duties
  • assisting with accounting obligations, including the passing of estate or trust accounts
  • dealing with complicated estate assets, including business assets and out of province assets
  • reporting to beneficiaries as required and liaising with other advisers, such as accountants

Ratcliff’s broad range of experience enables us to provide you with practical, cost effective advice and we can shield you from unnecessary liability and paperwork.

Our litigation department represents beneficiaries and executors in disputes relating to Wills and estates, including claims under the Wills Variation Act