John Poyser

  • Watchful lawyer exposes imposter scam

    Annie Kay was 87 years old when she lost her common-law spouse. She had no family to speak of, just a cousin. She did have a caregiver who helped her with her day-to-day needs and made it possible for her to remain in her house. She also had assets worth roughly $3.2 million. This tale played out in England but could just have easily occurred in Canada. Greed knows no nationality.
  • Moral of story: Tell family where your will is

    Henry Thomas Coghlan died in London, England, on Nov. 24, 1892. No will was found. When a person dies without a will to give away the estate, it is called an "intestacy." There is legislation that operates to give the wealth to the deceased person's nearest kin when there is no will. That is what happened to the Coghlan fortune. The fortune was huge -- he enjoyed immense wealth. The fortune was passed to his nearest kin, who decided to put it into a trust where it percolated along for a generation of wealthy Coghlan descendants. Among them was Lady Broughton, the matriarch of the family during the 1940s.
  • 'Special duty' prevents misdeeds

    Mr. Stephens was born in 1914, and while he had very little education, he had four lovely children. He worked as a millwright and was predeceased by his wife. At age 80, he fell under the sway of a man who he formerly worked with. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and later with Alzheimer's disease. His mental capacity was slipping when the former co-worker pounced. The co-worker offered to help Mr. Stephens, and the two moved in together.
  • A will by a fading mind can still stand

    Sally Adams was 87 years old when she was diagnosed with a mental disorder causing forgetfulness and paranoia. A court application was started to take over her financial affairs. She called a lawyer and told him she wanted a new will. They met for two hours. She told him about her siblings and nieces and nephews. While she forgot some of their names, she also remembered many. She had 30 nieces and nephews to account for. The lawyer asked about what she owned. She was able to answer in general terms, but not in perfect detail. The lawyer felt satisfied she had a rough working knowledge of the assets that would be given away at her death. She told him how those assets were to be distributed among her family under her will.
  • Avoid 'joint tenancy' trap

    Paula Peterson was close to her father. Mr. Peterson was told by a financial adviser joint ownership was a good way to pass his wealth on to the next generation. He changed all his investments and bank accounts to be in joint names with Paula. More specifically, the accounts were put into "joint tenancy." That meant she would be able to claim the full balance in the accounts at his death. They would not fall into his estate -- that was the plan, at least. When Mr. Peterson died, a fight boiled up. The issue was whether Paula would keep the contents of the accounts or if the money should be added back into the estate. These kinds of disputes usually occur when a person has several children who will inherit the estate, but only one child is listed as owner on the joint tenancy. That child may attempt to keep all the money and not share it.
  • Consider stepchildren in will-planning

    Mark and Mary have two children, Jon and Nola. Seven years separate the two children. Why? The couple had trouble conceiving the second time around. Mark suffered a medical misadventure that left his sperm count exceedingly low. Adoption was an option. Ultimately, they made arrangements to inseminate Mary with sperm from a donor. Everything worked out beautifully. Nola, the daughter from that process, was a gift. She is a lovely and accomplished young woman and both her parents love her very much. There was a wrinkle when it came time to make their wills, however. The normal language lawyers use would see everything go to "my spouse" and then, at the second death, equally to "my children" when both of them have passed away. That language works fine for Mary -- she is the biological mother of both Jon and Nola. It does not work for Mark -- he is the biological father of Jon but is not the biological father of Nola. He never adopted her either. That means Nola would be excluded from a share of Mark's estate if he was the second member of the couple to die. Mark loves both the children without distinction and has no intention of disinheriting Nola.
  • Avoiding problems while helping loved ones with financial affairs

    Barbara Smith appointed her daughter, Debbie, to handle her financial affairs if she ever became unable to do so herself. That was done by a power of attorney document she had her lawyer prepare. That showed foresight. In April of 2010, Barbara became mentally incompetent. Her daughter took over Barbara's finances. A person handling financial affairs for another under a power of attorney is called an "attorney." In legal language, Debbie was serving as the attorney for her mother.
  • Rules governing end-of-life care may change

    Gloria Taylor lived in British Columbia and suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease. She wanted the right to end her life on her own terms. That was going to be difficult. She did not want to end her own life while it had quality. The disease was going to rob her of that quality of life. She would be locked in her body, unable to move. That would render her unable to commit suicide if and when she wanted to. She wanted the option, and did not want the disease to strip her of it. She would need assistance if and when she chose to end her life. The Criminal Code made it illegal for anyone to provide that assistance. Suicide is legal, but only if you do it yourself. Taylor went to court and argued the law discriminated against her. By depriving her of help when she needed it, it deprived her of her ability to end her life. Her disability would stop her from doing what other able-bodied Canadians could do for themselves.
  • Amending wills can be tricky business

    J. Paul Getty was born in 1892 into a wealthy oil family. He worked in the family business and, eventually, became fantastically wealthy in his own right. He was a playboy, and fell out of his father's favour as a result. He had to earn his fortune the hard way, by his own efforts. It went well for him. He had a touch for business, and by the time he passed away, he was one of the wealthiest people in the world. He taught himself to speak Arabic and purchased oil rights to tracts of land in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait before oil was discovered there. No small trick. His most widely quoted remark? "The meek will inherit the earth, but not the mineral rights."
  • Choice of guardian paramount in young parents' will

    Mark and Susan have young children. When it came time to do their wills, their lawyer asked, "Who should take over in the role of parents if the two of you die while the kids are underage?" For young families, that is often the most difficult decision during the will-making process. If you have young children, it is important you address that when you are making a will. How do you pick the right person for the job?
  • Do not pass go, do not inherit $200... really

    John's family plays the board game Monopoly at each and every family gathering. Birthday parties, Christmas, whatever -- the board game comes out. When it came time to make his will, John told his lawyer he had an idea. John had beautiful and valuable antique furniture. Could he have his nieces and nephews play a game of Monopoly and have the winner of the game take all of the furniture as an inheritance? The idea is not a new one. A rich and eccentric English gentleman owned a palatial house in the tropics and, in his will, directed his nephews to gather there after his death and throw dice. The nephew able to throw the highest number would win the mansion. When the gentleman died, the executor followed the terms of the will. He invited the nephews to make the trip to the island and try their hand with the dice. The executor made the trip, as well, to supervise the process. Three nephews took turns throwing a pair of dice. One lucky nephew walked away with the deed to the property. The result was upheld in court. A game of chance is an acceptable legal mechanism to give away specific property under a will.
  • Alternatives to litigation during estate disputes

    Fred did a will before he died that appointed a friend to act as his executor. The will directed that his estate was to be divided between his two children. They were adults, but Fred thought he would do them a favour by letting his friend, Max, do the job. Max had already served as executor for two other people. Max knew the ropes. That did not mean things went well. The children thought Max worked too slowly. They were eager to get their inhertances and called him and emailed frequently. He thought they were being ungrateful. They thought he was being high-handed. He sat on emails and did not respond immediately -- trying to let them know they could not order him around like a lapdog. The children threatened to hire a lawyer -- trying to let Max know that they would not sit idly by while he dithered. Frustrations escalated. Everyone was surprised at how quickly things became uncivil.
  • What to do with a will once you've written it

    Sam just signed his last will and testament. He is planning to leave his estate equally between his two children. One lives in Calgary and the other in Winnipeg. His lawyer asked him where he planned to store the original copy. Good question.
  • Renting out house nearly cost dad's estate big time

    Jack inherited a house in British Columbia when he was a young man. It was a lovely old house on a quaint old street and the perfect place to raise a family. Eventually, the children moved out and his wife died. He lived on in the house as a widower, tending the garden each year while growing older. When his health failed in 2003, he moved to Calgary to be with family, and after a few years in a "grampa suite" at his daughter's place, he went into a care home. He died last year and his daughter, Corey, was his executor.
  • Trust fund tools aid disabled child

    Jack is a devoted father. He has a disabled son, Phillip, and he is committed to securing the best possible future for him. Jack is likely going to die before his son does, and Jack knows that. His will carefully establishes a trust for Phillip. After Jack passes away, half of his estate will be held in a trust for the rest of Phillip's life. That will allow for the careful management of the inheritance for Phillip. It is important it not run out. Phillip's sister, Corey, will be the trustee of the trust. She will handle her brother's money. The Income Tax Act includes some special tax provisions that will be of use to this family.
  • Death triggers major tax issues

    Jack normally paid approximately $40,000 a year in personal income taxes. He paid that amount, plus or minus, in 2008 and 2009. It was a little less in 2010 after he retired. In 2011, his personal income taxes jumped to $260,000, more than six times higher than in previous years. He did not get a job. He did not sell his business. He did not inherit or win the lottery. What made 2011 so different? Jack died. Death can come with a high cost in personal income taxes.
  • For couples with kids, estate planning is essential

    Andrea dragged her husband, Brad, to a lawyer to get a will done. The two of them were in their early 30s. They had little in terms of assets and were busy with their first baby. The legal fee for a proper estate plan was going to set the two of them back $1,000 or so. It seemed like a waste. Brad had his eye on a new guitar. One of the first questions the lawyer asked was who should take over parenting their child if both of them died in a car crash. Brad thought his parents would be best for the job. Andrea thought it should be her sister. It took a discussion later at home to work that through. Brad's parents were getting on in years, and Andrea's sister already had two young children of her own. They decided on the sister, who agreed to do it when they phoned her to ask. A clause was written into their wills to state that preference.
  • Cheapest lawyer may not be best

    Sam needed to prepare a new will and phoned around to find out how much it would cost. He called several lawyers. This is what he learned. Lawyers quoted fees for the will ranging from a low of $200 to a high of $1,200. He told each lawyer the same thing: that he had assets of about $500,000 and wanted to divide his estate at his death between two children, who were both adult and living here. He also told the lawyers he wanted not just a will, but also a power of attorney and medical directive to deal with his affairs if he became too sick to do so himself. The job he described was the same, but the quoted legal fees were all over the block.
  • Earliest days most vital time for will's executor

    John Mitchell appointed his nephew, Fred, to be his executor under his will. Wasting no time, John died shortly thereafter on June 6, 2009. It was sudden. Fred found out about it from a cousin a few hours later. If Fred wanted to do a good job as executor, it was important he start immediately. Here is what Fred had to do over the first two days.
  • Handling an estate time-consuming

    John Mitchell died on June 6, 2009. A year later his beneficiaries were up in arms. Why? They thought the process was taking too long and wanted their money. His executor was a nephew named Fred. He tried to move things along as quickly as possible. First of all, he had to take care of dozens upon dozens of important details. Some were urgent, like finding the will and making funeral arrangements. Others were less so. Those included emptying out the apartment and asking for a refund of the damage deposit, cancelling credit cards, distributing heirlooms, advising OAS to stop payments, and going through all of the deceased's papers. Some were important but could wait for later in the process. Those included applying for probate and filing a year-of-death tax return. The deceased had an electric mobility scooter and the executor had to make arrangements for it to be sold on consignment.
  • Tread carefully when investing for incapacitated ward

    Peter Smith took over his dad's financial affairs at the beginning of 2010. He slowly worked through all of the things he needs to know to do the job for his father correctly. His dad had a portfolio of investments. First, there was a RRIF valued at $260,000. Then there was a pool of non-registered investments, chiefly stocks in publicly traded companies such as Apple. The portfolio had an aggregate value of $400,000.
  • In transfers of wealth, courts tend to protect the giver

    George Gamble lived in Medicine Hat, Alta., and was a widower. In his 80s, he had some wealth. More than half of it was in the form of publicly traded shares in the Bank of Nova Scotia. He had no children and befriended a woman, age 50, who later became his lady friend. Her name was Sarah. He proposed to Sarah six times, but each time she refused. Life can be complicated. She had been married in the United States and had lost track of her estranged husband. She did not know if the divorce he had started had gone through.
  • Thorough record-keeping key to power of attorney

    Peter Smith was appointed as his father's 'attorney' under a general power of attorney document and took over his dad's financial affairs at the beginning of 2010. He took copies of the power of attorney to his father's financial adviser and banks, provided a doctor's letter confirming his father's incapacity to anyone who asked for it. He then started writing cheques and collecting his dad's pension payments. So far, so good. He wanted to do the job right, and after six months of handling his father's affairs he made an appointment to get some advice from a lawyer. The lawyer asked him to bring in the books he was maintaining for his father's money. "What books?" Peter asked.
  • Rules govern powers of attorney

    Peter Smith took over his dad's financial affairs at the beginning of 2010. His dad had been failing and eventually suffered a stroke that made it impossible for him to live independently and continue to handle his own financial affairs. The doctors said it was time. The father had signed an enduring power of attorney some years earlier that appointed his son Peter as his "attorney." The word attorney in this context describes a person who is given authority to handle another person's financial affairs under a power of attorney
  • Power of attorney took load off senior

    When is it time to take over financial affairs for a loved one? Bill asked his two nephews whether they would be willing to take over his financial affairs if he became too old or infirm to handle it himself. The two nephews said "yes."

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