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Conflicts of Law in Estate Planning: A Case Study

Sep 2nd, 2021

As we speed on to the fall and the fourth quarter of 2021, it is natural to look back on achievements in the year thus far, and this leads me to point with pride at the national webinar held on March 24, 2021 by STEP (the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) that reviewed issues that arise when client's issues in wills, trusts and estates, including as they relate to real estate, begin to cross borders and deal with more than one jurisdiction.

I was honored to be asked to deal with Quebec issues during the webinar, and it was exciting to point out to the participants and members from across Canada that rules under Quebec’s civil law can often be different than those existing in the common law provinces.  For example, Quebec generally requires estate-related beneficiaries to be named in wills rather than in financial institution account documentation.  (Life insurance is an obvious exception in Quebec that allows for non-will beneficiary designations.)  Another example of a difference is that Quebec does not have a “survivorship” rule for jointly owned assets including real estate, so co-owned assets generally devolve under each co-owner’s will rather than automatically to the surviving co-owner.  Some will argue that these unique rules in Quebec promote the granting of bequests in a solemn and serene way (in a will) and may reduce for example instances of abuse of vulnerable clients through non-will bequests or transfers.

The webinar was very ably moderated by Rhonda Johnson of Edmonton and Harmanjit Mavi of Winnipeg, with the participation of 11 contributors from 7 provinces, including myself from Quebec.  See a flier from the webinar at this link: Conflict of Laws

Congratulation to STEP and the participants for another great event!  A great way to mark 2021.