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Wills, Trusts and Estates

The transfer of wealth requires careful planning. A wide of variety of legal and tax considerations should be taken into account in every plan.

Whatever the circumstances or the size of the estate, Lawrences’ Wills, Trusts and Estates Group has handled it before. Whether you are a business owner wanting to sell or transition your business, a parent of a special needs child, a farmer looking to retire, or are involved in a second marriage or relationship, our estate lawyers have the experience to help you customize a plan that will meet your planning goals and objectives. We have completed numerous plans to help our clients save income and probate tax, minimize risk of claims and provide for an orderly transfer of wealth to family, friends, and charities.

Our estate lawyers and staff have processed hundreds of probate applications and have helped executors realize estate assets, settle estate debts and taxes, prepare estate accounts and distribute estate assets to beneficiaries. We also assist attorneys for property to fulfill their roles and responsibilities for the administration of an incapable person’s financial affairs.

Lawrences’ estate litigation lawyers have extensive experience litigating and resolving all manner of estate disputes.

Our estate lawyers have assumed leadership roles in estates and trusts associations and regularly lecture to other lawyers, accountants, financial planners, and financial advisors in Brampton, Peel Region and the Greater Toronto Area.

What happens if I die without a Will? What is probate? Why should I have a Will? What is a Power of Attorney? Can I have more than one Will? Who should I appoint as my Executor? How much is the probate tax in Ontario? Can I make my own Will without a lawyer? What is a trust and why would I create one? I do not really want to go to trial. How can I settle this case? How much will the Will challenge cost me and will I be able to recover my costs? I wish to challenge the last will and testament put forward by my Mother’s caregiver. How long will this take? I have received an accounting from the executor but I am not satisfied with the information I received. Something appears to be wrong. What can I do? My parents are deceased. I have asked my brother, who seems to have taken control of things, for a copy of my parents’ wills, but he refuses. Can I get copies of the wills? My second husband died recently and I was surprised to find out that he left most of his estate to the children of his first marriage. Can I make a claim against his estate? I have three siblings. Our mother just passed away and under her will we each get an equal share of her estate, which I feel is unfair. How can I set aside the will to get my fair share? I am one of the beneficiaries of the residue of my father’s estate. My brother is the executor and will not give me any information about what he is doing. Can he withhold information from me? My mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease when she died. My sister tells me that Mother executed a new will two weeks before she died and appointed my sister as the estate trustee and sole beneficiary. How can that will be valid? My parents lived in the same house for 30 years, and used the same law firm since this purchase. Father died in 2011. Mother’s health/mental state are deteriorating and I have asked the lawyer for a copy of Mother’s last will, yet he refuses.
It is with sincere gratitude that I am giving this testimony in appreciation of the impeccable professionalism, dedication, knowledge and outstanding sensitivity that I have experienced with Kiran Gill at Lawrences.  Though my need of her services was of no great financial return to her, I was still addressed with no less concern and attentiveness. Both Kiran and her receptionist immediately made me feel welcomed and valued.  It is obvious to me that these ladies were hand-picked because of their qualities and capabilities, as undoubtedly were all of their co-workers, proving this firm to be of great integrity.  I cannot thank them enough. 

Eveline Warden

Headwaters Health Care Foundation has worked with Ed Upenieks and his team at Lawrence, Lawrence, Stevenson LLP on several occasions. The estate advice and assistance he provides our Foundation has resulted in a number of very positive outcomes. Our interactions with Ed and his colleagues are always extremely professional, precise, and timely. I personally enjoy the warm and collaborative approach Ed uses in his daily practice. I would recommend this legal firm without hesitation.

Joan Burdette
Headwaters Health Care Foundation
CFRE, Executive Director

“Mike Prsa is a true professional. He has provided many of my clients with excellent estate planning advice and services. He has an ability to translate complex concepts into practical advice that clients can easily relate to and understand how they can be applied to their own unique circumstances. He is a pleasure to work with.”

Tom Cooney
Assante Capital Management Ltd. & Member, Canadian Investor Protection Fund
Branch Manager, Senior Wealth Advisor,

In 1967, Relamping Services was founded in Brampton, Ontario. Throughout our business relationship, Lawrences Lawyers’ professionalism, confidentiality, and exceptional expertise in Corporate Law, Real Estate Law, and Estate Planning has allowed us to remain focused on the growth of our business. As fast as business decisions are made, Lawrences has been an ideal partner as our business has grown to a national lighting services company.

G. David Searle
Relamping Services Canada Limited

“I have worked with corporate and estates lawyers at Lawrences for over a decade. I have always been impressed with the level of competency, responsiveness, and the practicality of their service. I look forward to another decade working with them and 100 years of Lawrences!”

Colin Smith
Thorsteinssons LLP Tax Lawyers

“Lawrence, Lawrence, Stevenson LLP provided me with excellent legal services in my estate planning, real estate and litigation dealings. Their legal team provided me with integrated, seamless support in my real estate transactions and associated litigation when I needed it. It was a true team effort.”

Dr. Loris Gregoris

Professional Engineer

Mar 20, 2015 | Case Study

Greedy Estate Trustee

The Problem A friend was appointed as executor of an estate where the deceased had directed in his will that the residue of the estate be divided e...

Mar 20, 2015 | Case Study

Improper Bedside Will

The Problem A couple prepared wills, leaving their estates to each other and on the death of the last spouse, to their two children, a son and daug...

Feb 03, 2014 | Case Study

Providing for Dependents in Blended Families

The Problem Our client has two adult children from his first marriage. He also has two more children with his second wife. When he married, he own...

Feb 03, 2014 | Case Study

Disabled Beneficiary

The Problem The father of a disabled, 30-year-old son died suddenly without leaving a Will. His estate is worth under $100,000. His son and his si...

Feb 03, 2014 | Case Study

Business owner

Our client incorporated his company 20 years ago with $50,000 of his own money and a bank loan. The business has grown substantially and his shares...

Jun 03, 2015 | Presentation

Tips and Traps when Preparing Estate Accounts; How to Avoid Estate Litigation

Estate litigation often means thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and a significant delay in the administration of an estate. In addition to possibly depleting the assets of an estate, estate litigation often destroys families and relationships. At times, the total monies spent in legal fees is not much less than the value of the entire estate.

While estate litigation involving will challenges is fairly common, a significant amount of estate litigation involves estate accounting and the propriety of the conduct of executors and trustees in the management and administration of an estate. Some litigation is unavoidable, particularly where there has been mismanagement or a breach of trust by the executor or trustee. However, a significant amount of litigation can be avoided by maintaining proper estate accounting and understanding the role of an executor or trustee of an estate.

May 13, 2015 | Presentation

Record Keeping and Accounting by Estate Trustees, Attorneys and Guardians of Property

Estate Trustees are fiduciaries and must act in the best interests of the beneficiaries of the estate. Estate Trustees have a common law duty to maintain accounts of what they have done with the trust property. 

The Trustee is obliged to provide a complete set of accounts, a true and perfect accounting at all times. 

While the formal rule is that Estate Trustees have a duty to constantly be ready to account, in practice, it is not always practical to produce accounts on the spot. Timing of the delivery will depend on the circumstances and should be governed by common sense. Although Estate Trustees are usually given one year to administer an estate of average complexity, an Estate Trustee would be wise to be ready to account before the “executor year” expires. 

Strictly speaking, an Estate Trustee does not have to account without being asked to do so or being ordered to do so by the court. In the vast majority of cases, the Estate Trustee will voluntarily account to the beneficiaries as part of the process to complete the administration of the estate. An estate is said not to be complete until the beneficiaries or the courts have approved the administration of the estate. Beneficiaries will not approve the administration without first reviewing the accounting. An Estate Trustee should not distribute the estate without getting some assurance that the beneficiaries are satisfied with the administration and will not be making claims against the Estate Trustee in the future.


Dec 17, 2014 | Presentation

Family Law Considerations in an Estate Plan

Estate planning involves the transfer of wealth to family, friends and charity in an efficient and effective manner. In many cases, the efficiency goal requires a review of various tax minimization, tax avoidance or tax deferral strategies. Indeed, tax considerations are an integral and important part of any estate plan.

For an estate plan to be effective, it is also important to have an understanding of the client’s goals and priorities and to advance them within the relevant legal framework. A wide variety of legal considerations need to be taken into account in every case. It is beyond the scope of this paper to address all such considerations.

This paper is focussed on family law considerations and how family law rules impact how an estate is allocated and structured. While family law rules can result in claims being made against an estate, family law can also be used to protect assets. The extent to which specific family law rules will apply will often depend on the marital status of the client and his or her beneficiaries as well as the location, nature and extent of assets owned by the client and where the client and the beneficiaries reside. 

Failure to collect all of the relevant information and to understand and deal with family law rules will likely lead to unintended consequences, costly litigation and delays in the administration of an estate and disappointed beneficiaries.

The summary of family law considerations in this paper is for individuals who reside in Ontario. Individuals who have a multi-jurisdiction estate or non-resident beneficiaries also need to address the relevant legal considerations in other relevant jurisdictions. Since this paper is being presented to non-lawyers, the paper does not exhaustively cover all legal considerations. The goal of this paper is to raise general awareness. This summary is provided for information and education purposes only. You should not rely on this summary as legal advice. Specific advice should be sought in each case.

May 29, 2014 | Article

To Probate or Not to Probate? – That is the Question

You have probably heard of the term “probate”. Perhaps a prospective client has called and told you that a relative has died and he or she needs you to help them “get probate”. What are they referring to, and how can you assist?

Apr 22, 2014 | Presentation

Planning and Administration of Henson Trusts: Some Practice Tips

It is now common practice for parents with disabled children to incorporate a Henson trust in their estate plan.

In most cases, the share of the estate allocated for the disabled beneficiary is directed to be held by a trustee in a fully discretionary trust during the disabled child’s lifetime. The trust is typically created in the parent’s Will. The trustee is given discretion to pay income or capital to the child and income that is not allocated to the child is typically directed to be accumulated in the trust, subject to the provisions of the Accumulations Act that require trust income to be distributed after twenty-one years.

The disabled child’s share of the estate is set aside in such a trust, both for the purpose of preserving the beneficiary’s entitlement to government benefits and to avoid the need to appoint a guardian of property to manage the disabled family member’s interest in the estate.

When drafting Henson trusts, it is important to have an understanding of the Ontario Disability Support Program (“ODSP”) rules and exemptions.

We will first provide an overview of the ODSP plan and conclude with some Will planning and estate administration tips.

Apr 01, 2014 | Article

Transitioning the Family Farm

Jim Smith, a widower, has operated a farming business since he bought his farm property in 1975 for $200,000. He has three adult sons who help him with the farming operation; one or more of them may wish to continue a farming operation in the future. In his Will, Jim has named his three sons as equal beneficiaries of his estate. The current value of the property is about $4.2 million. Some developers have approached him about selling the farm. He does not know what he should do.

Nov 11, 2013 | Presentation

Estate Litigation and Costs: Protecting Your Client (and Yourself)

At the outset of litigation, costs can sometimes be a distant thought, as the reality of being saddled with the fees of one’s opponent have not yet become tangible. However, judges are lending more consideration to costs, and counsel should be increasingly mindful of that. Years ago costs were not really an area that justified acute attention. Nevertheless, with the development of this area in the estates context, it becomes clear that this last-leg of combat requires strategic thinking from the inception of litigation. The conduct during the proceedings can have a large determination as to how costs are finally apportioned.

Dec 01, 2012 | Article

Guardianship of Minors: What is in the Best Interests of the Children?

Sue and Dave have one child of their marriage, a 10-year-old son named Jack. Dave’s aunt died recently, naming Jack as sole beneficiary of a $20,000 insurance policy. Sue and Dave have wills, in which Sue’s sister Mary is named as guardian for Jack, should Sue and Dave die before Jack reaches age 18. They want to know if Mary as guardian would have the authority to manage Jack’s assets, including the $20,000 insurance policy.

Sep 27, 2012 | Presentation

The Uses of Trusts in a Will

A properly drafted Will is usually the cornerstone of a good estate plan. A good estate plan will address a wide variety of planning considerations including whether a beneficiary should receive his or her interest in the estate by outright gift or whether the gift should be left in trust.

Apr 01, 2012 | Article

Estate Planning Part 1: The Difference Between a Will and an Estate Plan

Murray and Sara own a house, which is registered in both their names as joint tenants, and a condo in Florida, which is held in the name of Murray’s company. One of their children works in the company; the other lives overseas. When Murray consults his financial advisor about retirement, the advisor talks about the need for an estate plan. Murray is surprised: he thought all he needed was a Will.

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