by Christopher A. Straub, Henley & Straub LLP –
Like the rest of 2020, the upcoming holiday season will look very different than years past. The upside of these quieter times is that they present an opportunity for us to carve out a few moments to reflect on the positive impacts we have had on others, and the impacts we wish to make once we are gone. For many people, this means turning our minds to estate planning and legacy gifting.
A legacy can take many forms. One may leave a legacy of community service, or dedication to a particular cause. For some, their legacy is the lasting lessons and impressions they leave on family and friends. Many people also opt to leave a legacy in the legal sense, by making bequests to people and/or organizations in their Will and through other estate-related documents.
One of the first steps to legacy planning is to understand what you own and how you own it; the nature of ownership dictates how your assets will be distributed. Note whether your assets are held jointly (to be passed along to the joint owner) or have named beneficiaries. Perhaps you have assets held by a trust that will pass outside of your estate. You may also have assets you wish to pass through your estate. Once you have a clear list of what you own and how you own it, you can consider whether the current state of your affairs is optimal for you, your estate and your beneficiaries. To assist on this point, many find it useful to consult with a lawyer.
Your lawyer, often working with your other professional advisors, can help you identify planning strategies which may present opportunities for tax and estate planning savings. These savings can be considerable; however, these opportunities are becoming increasingly complicated following recent changes to the law. From the Speculation and Vacancy Tax, to the Transparency Register requirements for all private companies, to the Land Owner Transparency Registry which came into force earlier this month, the legal and tax implications surrounding estate planning are more complex now than in the past.
We often hear from family members who are distressed that the intentions of their loved ones are not being carried out because of a problem in the way their financial or legal affairs were structured. Your lawyer will help you ensure that your intentions are honoured and carried out – it is what we do.
We will all be leaving a legacy of some kind. Whether by volunteering, donating to a cause or lending a helping hand to others in need, our community truly prides itself on its ability to give back. Whatever your legacy, make sure it is planned properly so your generosity will be appreciated, valued and most importantly, remembered.