Tuesday, February 07, 2006

National Wills and Trusts Section Meeting in Toronto

I attended the Canadian Bar Association National Wills and Trusts Section meeting in Toronto last weekend in my capacity as the Chair of the Okanagan Wills and Trusts Subsection. It was a great opportunity for me to meet with some very thoughtful wills, trust and estate lawyers from other cities and provinces, most of whom I had not met in person before. There were representatives from most of the provinces, and Yukon Territory.

I came away from the meeting with a better sense of the challenges a national wills and trusts section has in Canada. We deal with similar issues, but each province has its own laws governing wills, trusts and estates.

During the course of discussions about recent legal developments in each of our provinces, and of how common law spouses are treated in succession legislation, I gained a greater appreciation of how different our laws can be. I knew of course that Quebec has a civil law system, rather than a common law system, but did not realize in Quebec wills drawn by Quebec Notaries are not probated.

Each province has its own definitions for common law spouses, which can vary within a province, depending on the purpose of the legislation, and which vary considerably among provinces. The time thresholds for establishing a common law relationship vary; the most common appear to be living together for one, two or three years. In British Columbia our legislation refers to a "marriage-like relationship," while our neighbor Alberta has a unique concept of "adult interdependent partner," which is a relationship between two persons who "share one another's lives, are emotionally committed to one another, and function as an economic and domestic unit...."

The one area of law we all share is federal income tax legislation. For this reason, the National Wills and Trusts subsection tends to focus quite a bit of energy on proposals to improve tax laws to facilitate good estate planning.

I got a few good ideas from the meeting about future topics for this blog, and I took some pictures of Toronto Courthouses and other law related buildings which I will post over the next month.

No comments: