Another new year is upon us, already. Wasn’t it just the other day we were anticipating the Olympic Winter Games of 2010? The rapid passage of time leads to thoughts of the transience of life, and the inevitability of death. Benjamin Franklin said something to the effect that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. I am not sure about “only” but death does seem fairly likely to come to us all. This is true even for those of us in the “baby boom” generation who have managed so far to change just about everything else.
The thing about death is that it seems to be pretty much an “all or nothing” proposition. This is less true of taxes. Yes, we will sooner or later pay tax, on our incomes and on those things we own, purchase or consume. Still we can have some control over how much tax we pay, when we pay it and where we pay it. All it takes is a little planning.
Which brings me to the subject of Wills. Statistically, it appears that around 65% of Canadians do not make use of one of the most powerful tools available to us to manage the amount of tax we pay on death.
Why ever not? Do they think they are not going to die? Many people say they don’t have a big enough estate to need a will, or that everything is owned jointly with their spouse, or that they don’t own anything. But are those valid excuses? And even if they are valid today, will they still hold up by the time the person dies?
Contrary to what Ben Franklin said, I subscribe more to Socrates who said that the only constant is change. Again, I am not sure about “the only constant” but I am quite certain that change will happen. The value of your assets will change (either up or down), your spouse (or, God forbid, a child) may predecease you, or, surprise, surprise, the law may change.
In fact, in British Columbia, the law is about to change. And on that subject, the only thing I write about here is the law as it applies in British Columbia. That means the information here is for residents of British Columbia, and for those who have assets here, especially real estate. The rest of you who are moved to do something about getting a valid will or estate plan should talk to a professional in your own jurisdiction to ensure that you know what the rules are there, because, and here is another constant, those rules will be different.
Watch this space for the coming changes to the law of Wills, Estates and Succession Planning in BC to see how they will affect you, especially if you die without a will. There will be tips about new planning strategies, and I’ll write about tax issues as they apply to estate planning, trusts and succession. I’ll even throw in the odd story about how badly things can go wrong, and why, when it comes to planning (or not) for what happens when you die, you get what you pay for.
Make a resolution to get a proper will done. Once that is off your plate, you will be like so many of my clients, who, after signing their wills, have turned to me and said, “that feels so good, why did I wait so long to do it?”