Joint Asset Planning Kit

The Joint Asset Planning Kit

Joint Asset Planning Kit

The Joint Asset Planning Kit™ In The Media

The Vancouver Province

New Kit Solves Joint-account Crises
Recent ruling says cash must be shared with other beneficiaries

Irene Seiberling
CanWest News Service
Business

REGINA -- Joint accounts can create family wars -- something Barry Fish knows all about.

The Toronto-based wills and estates lawyer is no stranger to family squabbles. He's spent more than 30 years dealing with inheritance disputes.

"There are many tragic stories," he said.

When a joint account is shared by an elderly parent and adult child, for example, it can trigger inheritance battles with siblings. When the parent dies, who gets the money? Was the money in the account intended as a gift for the child named on the joint account alone? Or was it set up for convenience only, and the parent's intention was to have the money -- as with everything else specified in his or her will -- divided equally among the siblings?

If all family members agree what should be done, there's no problem. If not, it can lead to a destructive and costly family estate battle.

But because the death of a parent who shared a joint account with a child results in legal battles so frequently, the Supreme Court of Canada recently issued a ruling to help clear up the matter. Now, most assets held jointly by a parent and a child will not automatically become the child's when the parent dies. Instead, what happens to the joint asset on death will be determined by the parent's intention. And if the beneficiaries of the parent's estate can't agree on what the parent's intention was, the court will decide who gets the asset.

That's when Fish and his law associates decided to make available a lawyer-prepared document that clearly states a parent's intentions. To eliminate any ambiguities involving joint accounts, Fish & Associates created a Joint Asset Planning Kit, available to the public for $45, plus taxes and shipping, for a printed version. (Electronic versions aren't available yet.)

"We say 'kit' because it's prepackaged," Fish said. "There are no variables. The document is precise. It is simply reciting what you have and you sign it. Further, the way we have you sign it -- again, no variables -- makes it impossible for it to revoke your will."

For instance, there's a special clause in the declaration that protects the joint asset from a son-in-law or daughter-in-law, in the event the son or daughter gets separated or divorced.

"It puts to bed all the questions," Fish said.

To illustrate, Fish described a typical family configuration: Mom, Dad and three kids. Years later, Mom has passed away and only Dad is left. Sister is now Dad's caregiver, and it's a serious encroachment on her life.

No one in the family is particularly hostile toward anyone else, but in his will, Dad expresses his wish to split his estate equally among all three children.

For convenience, a significant portion of his assets are in a joint account, so Sister can write the utility-bill cheque or make deposits.

Nobody gets too excited about it until Dad dies, "and lo and behold, Sis is told by the banker, 'Well, Dad had this account with you, and investments with you on joint account with right of survivorship, so the money is yours.' "

Had Dad signed a declaration of intention for all his joint assets, he could have spared his children considerable grief, because his intentions would have been clear.

"That's all it takes," Fish said.

To order a Joint Account Declaration, visit www.jointasset.com, call
1-877-439-3999 or e-mail joint@familyfight.com.

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