Ask The Expert: Estate Planning with Flavia Zancope

Happy 3 generation family in grandparents' backyard

Estate planning is so important and I think something many young people don’t necessarily prioritize. I wasn’t with my daughter’s father so some of the legal aspects to our separation made estate planning essential in my mind so at 22-years-old I had my first will made. My mother died very unexpectedly at 46 from a brain aneurysm and didn’t have a will. The process of not having one became a three-year ordeal trying to settle her estate. My family had to deal with her boyfriend ,who had no legal claim to her estate, yet tried to forge documents advising that he had lived with her longer than he actually had which cost us unnecessary legal fees and time. He stole her belongings but without a will the police couldn’t do anything because legally no one had claim over them. We were fined for filing her taxes late yet had no legal right to file on her behalf early. The grieving process was longer and harder because we had an extra layer of anger towards her for not being responsible enough to pre-plan for her children. Dying is big business that the government heavily benefits from unless you plan accordingly.

I sat down with notary Flavia Zancope from Zancope Notary to clear up any misconceptions you might have about estate planning. She has her MBA and MAALS.

What is estate planning? What are the different things you might not have realized you need (wills/power of attorney/etc.)?

In BC, a notary can help you with two types of planning: personal planning and estate planning. Personal planning involves making legal arrangements to protect you and your interests while you are alive. This includes preparing documents such as powers of attorney, representation agreements, and advance directives, all of which have legal authority over certain areas. For example, if you are unable to speak for yourself, a power of attorney can grant someone the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf. A representation agreement legally empowers someone to make healthcare decisions, and so on. Whether it’s finances, healthcare, legal affairs, or personal care, personal planning is about protecting your values and wishes while you are alive. On the other hand, estate planning is making arrangements to leave peace of mind for your loved ones after our death. It’s not the sunniest topic, but it’s an important one. The key to estate planning is a Will. This legal document conveys your wishes after you die, it simplifies some bureaucratic matters. It tells your family and friends how you want to divide your assets, arrange your funeral, and more. A key point about having a Will done for any parent with minor children at home is to appoint a guardian to care of your minor children if parents are no longer alive.

What happens to your estate without a will?

If you die without a will, your estate will still be divided among your closest relatives according to WESA (BC legislation). While in the end your assets will end up with your family regardless, when a person dies without a Will a family member would need to apply to court to be granted administrative powers in order to deal with the estate and the process can be expensive, not to mention time consuming.

However, when children younger than 19 are involved, there is more at state than a few bureaucratic hassles. If both parents / guardians of minor children die without a will, the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) of BC and the Ministry of Children and Family Development step in. The PGT protects your children’s financial and legal rights, and the ministry is responsible for your children’s health, education, and upbringing. This means until a permanent guardian is assigned, your children go to foster care family. Someone in your family can apply to be the permanent guardian, but the courts would need to investigate and approve them first. Meanwhile, your children would stay in
foster homes. Preparing a will and naming a testamentary guardian avoids all that. A testamentary guardian takes full custody of the children immediately and would act as a parent until the children turn 19.

When should you update your will?

The most common reason to update a will (drafted after 2014) is to change beneficiaries, that is, the people who will receive your assets. Other than that, thanks to recent changes to BC’s estate planning laws, a Will you create today covers all your assets when you die. So, if you change your address, buy property, or have more kids, your will remains effective with no need to be changed.

When should families start estate planning? What costs are involved?

I recommend that families start estate planning as soon as possible. If you own assets in BC or have children under the age of 19, a will can eliminate a lot of administrative hassles and paperwork for your family. By naming a guardian for your minor children, you choose who will look after them in your absence. Even if you know your family would step up in the event of the worst, a will ensures a smooth transition, without foster care or expensive court proceedings. At Zancope Notary Public, we charge $399 for a basic will preparation.

What things might someone overlook when estate planning?

When preparing a will, you’ll need to appoint an executor. That’s the person who carries out the terms of your will. The executor manages funeral planning and distributing your estate. It’s important to choose someone reliable and organized, someone you trust. Typically, the executor is also one of beneficiaries. For parents of minor children, selecting a testamentary guardian is a crucial decision. You need to appoint one person, not a couple, and having an alternate is advisable. If you want to name a guardian who lives out of town, remember to also designate a temporary guardian to ensure a smooth transition. Having a will can bring peace of mind to your loved ones. It can eliminate unnecessary administrative burdens while also giving assurance that your wishes are being carried out. For your minor children, a will ensures they are looked after by someone you know and trust.

Thank you to Flavia for taking the time out of her day to answer my questions. If you are interested in estate planning with Flavia at Zancope Notary Public, #200-8661 201st Langley, you can visit her site or call her office at: 604-260-6783.

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