Many years ago, I vividly remember a heartbreaking story of a client, who was a stay at home mother who was only a few years settling into Canadian life and her husband was the sole bread winner providing for the family and he suddenly passed away in a car accident. The husband had a bank account only in his name, managed the whole finances of the family up until that point and the client never had any clue about his employment or income or bank accounts.
In Canada, it is not easy to access the spouse’s finances or bank accounts after death unless the individual has a Will / Power of Attorney or a joint bank account. The bank freezes the single owner bank accounts as soon as the person dies. Without a joint account the client had to face a long legal process and uphill struggle to get hold of her spouse’s finances eventually.
The current health crisis is another stark reminder that how someone’s life and livelihood can be so fragile and unpredictable. More than ever, the pandemic has warranted us to learn the importance of having a Will / Power of Attorney and personal care plan and knowing that a plan is in place and your loved ones are provided for can bring us some comfort during these uncertain times.
Let’s look at some of the important terms to understand the basics.
What is a Will? – A will is a legal document that says who gets your property /finances after you die.
Do I need a Will? – If you are an adult with assets and have dependents you are able to prepare a Will to ensure care and support for them after you pass away. Dying without a Will means you left no instructions on how your property/ assets or money can be distributed or divided. In these circumstances, the Ontario Succession Law Reform Act governs how your property will be distributed to your surviving relatives.
How to prepare a Will? – https://stepstojustice.ca/questions/covid-19/i-want-write-will-what-do-i-need-know/
What is Power of Attorney for Property? – It is a legal document that lets you choose someone you trust to make decisions for you about your finances and property.
How do I make a Power of Attorney for Property?– https://stepstojustice.ca/questions/wills-and-powers-of-attorney/how-do-i-make-power-attorney-property/
What is Power of Attorney for Personal Care? – It is a legal document that lets you name someone to make decisions for you if you become mentally incapable. This is sometimes called a “personal power of attorney”.
How do I make a Power of Attorney for Personal Care? – https://stepstojustice.ca/questions/wills-and-powers-of-attorney/how-do-i-make-power-attorney-personal-care/
Single Vs Joint Bank Account? – In case of a joint account, even though it is easier to access bank account funds when the spouse passes away, there are risks associated when you own bank accounts jointly. If there is a break up in relationships or a divorce, things would become messy. If one has a poor credit history, it could be detrimental to other users of the account, there could be conflicts arising if someone in the account is not spending the bank funds responsibly and you could also be liable for the joint account holder’s debt.
We at Indus, arrange free information sessions from lawyers on topics such as this frequently throughout the year. Check out our upcoming events at https://www.induscs.ca/events-calendar/ or contact us for additional support at no cost at 905-275-2369.