Pre-planning your funeral

We are living in sad and strange times. Adding to that is the news (that you can read here) that, effective last week, families will now have one hour from time of death to choose a funeral home (three hours if the deceased was in a long-term care home).

Choosing how someone is to be buried is not an easy decision at the best of times, and even more devastating when the death is sudden. Add to that this time pressure, and it could become an impossibly hard decision for your loved ones to make. There is a solution, however, and that is pre-planning your funeral now, so that your family doesn’t have to later.

Many funeral homes will allow you to plan out every detail of your funeral without paying. You can have all of the details set, or just broad strokes. The funeral home will keep your instructions on file, and activate them when the time comes. It takes away the stress of planning from your family, and in these uncertain times, it means one less decision that they have to make in a hurry.

We are still open (virtually)

With all of the news flying around about the shutdown, we want to let everyone know that we are, effectively, fully virtual at this point and so can complete active real estate closings. Between zoom and wire services, we can get it done if you have a contract that you can’t extend. Please reach out to a member of our team if you have any questions – we’re here to help and support our clients through this.

We are also working through how to do estate planning virtually. Instructions are the easy part; signing is not. We have been in touch with the Attorney General’s office to see if they can implement temporary rules to allow us to witness wills remotely. In the meantime, we can work through instructions and go from there.

Our entire office is equipped to work remotely, and many of us are now doing so. We may not be as fast to respond, but we are here for you.

COVID-19

In light of current global and local events, Wall-Armstrong & Green will be focusing in on assisting our clients and helping our families and community. We will be back to share information on this blog when it is appropriate to do so.

Dead celebrities still making a killing

I can’t put it better than this. Enjoy!

Keeping things hidden

Let’s say you are buying a house, but you are an extremely private person. Can you hide the price you paid for the house so that no one can find out?

The short answer is, yes. If you truly do not want to show your purchase price, you can pay your Land Transfer Tax in advance and show the purchase price on the deed as zero. You will need to send the Land Transfer Tax down to the ministry office, have them approve the amount, and then have them enter a statement onto the deed to indicate that the tax has been paid. If you have enough time before your closing and truly want this hidden, you can do so.

How to inherit an estate

Most of us, at some point in our lives, will lose a loved one who will have left us something in their will. If what you inherit is significant in value, you should keep a few points in mind.

  1. Take your time. You need to give yourself time to grieve, and then time to determine what you want to do. Making a rushed decision about where to invest or what to buy will not be helpful. Put the money in a bank account, and come back to it when the grieving period is over.
  2. Hire a professional. There could be major tax or other consequences from what you choose to do with the inheritance. Before you take any action, be sure you know what the result will be.
  3. Think about your own estate plan. Now that your assets have increased, it may be time to have your own will altered (or drafted in the first place) so that your inheritance will go on to the person of your choice, in the manner of your choosing.
  4. Remember that the best course of action for you may not be obvious to others. Choose the one that makes sense for you and your family, regardless of what others think.

Happy holidays!

Whether you are celebrating or simply taking some time off, we wish you a very happy holiday season.

Helping your child buy a home

Most parents work hard to protect and help their children as they grow, and continue to do so when their children become adults. One aspect of helping is often assisting their children in buying a home, often through co-signing a mortgage.

Acting as a co-signer or guarantor on a mortgage may seem like a simple thing to do. You have equity in your home and likely a much longer work record; your child has saved a down payment but is having trouble getting approved on his or her own. What you need to be comfortable with, however, is that, by signing, you become equally responsible for the mortgage. If your child stops paying the mortgage for any reason, the bank will go after you. In my experience, it is far more acrimonious when there is a fight between parents and children than between strangers.

It’s great to be able to help your child make such a major purchase. Before you do, you always want to be comfortable with your child’s financial status. A lack of employment history is easily dealt with; poor money management is a bigger problem. Be sure your child truly is ready to buy a home.

Blending

I have clients who are a classic blended family. She had a child young and separated from the father when her daughter was three; he divorced his wife when his daughter was seven; when they married, they had a child together. They consider all three children to be both of theirs, as they have jointly raised them all, but he never adopted her daughter and she never adopted his. They have drafted their wills to reflect their view of their family rather than their legal status.

Pop quiz: what would have happened if they hadn’t done wills?

Given that most of their assets are jointly held, on the death of the first to die, the survivor would receive everything. However, on the death of the second partner, only that person’s children would inherit. If she died first, her daughter would receive nothing, and vice versa. This would have been completely contrary to their wishes.

Even if you have a cookie-cutter family, you should consider having a will. If you fall anywhere outside the norm, it is vital.

What exactly does a real estate lawyer do?

The practice of real estate law is sometimes a bit of a mystery to the public. When people hear the word “lawyer,” they immediately think of Law & Order and courtroom work. What happens on the transactional end isn’t as exciting to the outsider, but there are a lot of things that we do.

Real estate lawyers check title to make sure that you don’t have to buy the house with a restriction you can’t live with; check off title to make sure, for example, that the property taxes are all paid; prepare all of the paperwork; and meet with the client to sign everything. If we receive the offer before it’s firm, we can also have input into conditions and other items.

I came across this article in the Globe and Mail a few weeks ago, which has more tips on what to look for in a real estate lawyer and why it’s important to have one. In Ontario, you cannot buy or sell a property without a lawyer, but hiring one who makes real estate a regular part of their practice can make all the difference.