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Wills, Powers of Attorney and Estate Planning issues

The will and giving someone power of attorney are a package, with the power of attorney being more important to many. “What happens to you while you are living and can’t take care of yourself, who do you want to make those decisions?”

A new survey from RBC Wealth Management says 37% of people with investable assets of more than $1-million have not bothered with a will. That number is high, said Tony Maiorino, vice-president and head of RBC wealth management services, but he says it would be even higher if it also counted people who have a will that isn’t up to date or reflective of their current situation. He says people at that level are more likely to have complex investments, property holdings and estates. Maybe they have transferred jobs over the years and accumulated those assets in different countries.

The study suggested that among those with $1-million-plus in assets, 53% said real estate was a high or very high proportion of their wealth. Yet it also found 34% of respondents had no idea what role taxes might play in the distribution of those assets after death. Even for the middle class, wills can quickly get complicated, said Mr. Maiorino, who points to a child going to the United States for university and ultimately getting married and living there. “They could get an inheritance at some point, there could be state tax issues, insurance policy issues,” he says.

The numbers for the general population are even worse when it comes to having a will. A study this year from the Lawyers’ Professional Indemnity Company (LawPRO) found 56% of Canadians do not have a signed will.

People may think they don’t have enough assets to bother but the reality is you probably do have something that needs to be put in writing.

“The problem with not having anything is it’s a little too late as you are dying to count if you have anything,” said Ray Leclair, vice-president of public affairs at LawPRO, adding some people are very particular about what happens when they are incapacitated.

The will and giving someone power of attorney are a package, with the power of attorney being more important to many. “What happens to you while you are living and can’t take care of yourself, who do you want to make those decisions?” Mr. Leclair asked.

Tom Carter, a long-time lawyer who is the author of Write Your Legal Will In 3 Easy Steps, says people sometimes just don’t want to face the emotional task of setting up a will.

“Visiting a lawyer is an intensely personal thing, whether you are a wealthy person or not,” Mr. Carter says. “You’ve got to bare a certain amount of your soul so the lawyer can be certain the document they are producing meets your needs.” As for doing it online or with a kit, even Mr. Carter says it’s probably not for the very wealthy with a lot of assets. “My book is not aimed at people with multiple assets spread around the world, it’s aimed at average folks.”

Source: www.business.financialpost.com/2012/12/11/wealthy-havent-bothered-with-a-will/

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