Case Study:  Advance Estate Planning Could Have Saved Time and Money By Avoiding Probate
By Helen Rees

I met with clients recently, a son and daughter, whose mother had recently passed on.  Her daughter was named executor in the mother’s will.  The estate has no property other than the condo in which the mother had resided prior to taking ill.  The condo was registered in the name of the mother and is worth about $170,000.00.  The children were surprised that a grant of probate approving the will (a court document appointing the daughter to be the executor with power to administer the estate) had to be obtained. They thought that was the whole purpose of the preparation of the mother’s will was to avoid probate.

If the mother had transferred her property to herself and a child jointly prior to her death, something which the children thought she would have readily done, the child could have submitted a simple form to our land titles office to have title issued in his or her name as surviving joint tenant.  In order to safeguard the children who are not named on title from the registered owner transferring to a third party and scooping the sale proceeds, we would have registered a caveat against the certificate of title to the condo indicating that the registered owner was holding the property in trust for the mother (i.e., the estate).  In this manner, probate could have been avoided and the estate would not have had to pay the lawyer’s fees and other costs to obtain the grant of probate, thereby saving the estate considerable monies as well as considerable time in distribution of the proceeds of the estate.

Proper estate planning is more than simply executing a will, enduring power of attorney and a personal directive.  With competent legal advice, an estate can save costs by taking pre-emptive action that avoids probate.