The Importance of Estate Planning in Family Law: Wills, Trusts, and Probate

The Importance of Estate Planning in Family Law

Wills, trusts, and probate: These terms are used commonly when it comes to planning your affairs after your death. You need to know what each of them means and how they fit into a jigsaw of managing your affairs. In this blog, our St. Catharines family law team explains wills, trusts, and probate.

What is a Will (and Basic Will Law)?

A will is a legal document that records how you wish your assets to be distributed upon your passing. It allows granular control over your assets, how the estate is to be distributed, and any other instructions you want to relay. You can create multiple wills, which is why working with experienced real estate lawyers is so important. They can prevent conflicts in wills and disputes between your loved ones.

If you die without leaving behind a legally valid will, your estate will be distributed according to Ontario’s Succession Law Reform Act.

What is a Trust?

A trust is a legally recognized arrangement wherein you transfer your assets to a trustee to hold and manage for the benefit of beneficiaries. Trusts can be created while you are alive or be created by the will after your death. Trusts can safeguard assets from creditors, lower estate taxes, and give you more options for distributing your wealth.

For instance, if you are unable or unwilling to transfer assets to a minor, you can set up a trust. The trustee will manage the assets till such time the beneficiary attains the age of maturity.

What Is Probate?

Probate is a legal process where someone approaches the court to:

  1. Give a person or persons the authority to act as an estate trustee of the estate.
  2. Confirm the authority of a person named estate trustee in the will.
  3. Formally state that the deceased’s will is their last and valid will.

Probate is usually required (or recommended) for larger estates. Real estate lawyers also recommend it when a property is involved.

Probate can help reduce the possibility of disputes arising out of challenges to the validity of the will. It can also protect estate trustees by providing them with court-granted authority to distribute assets. Probate can also reduce the potential liability of estate trustees.

Estate Planning Is Complex, Which Is Why You Should Work With a St. Catharines Family Law Team

Planning out how your assets will be distributed involves a complex balance between relationships, intentions, tax, and costs. Above all, even a small misstep in your planning can lead to prolonged disputes after your passing. It is highly advisable that you work with lawyers to understand will laws and how best to use all the legal tools available to you.

Over 140 Years of Helping Ontarians Manage Their Affairs

Wills, trusts, and probate are powerful tools that protect your wishes and the interests of your loved ones after your passing. Book a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your estate with our St. Catharines family lawyers. We provide practical, cost-effective solutions that help you manage your estate.