Both words in our company name have great meaning to us.
“Estate” describes the total of a person’s assets, their legal rights and entitlements to property of any kind, less any liabilities. This estate needs to be cared for, administered, and managed and preserved, throughout a person’s lifetime, and afterwards.
“Steward” refers to someone who is responsible for the assets of another. It implies a fiduciary role which is the highest standard of responsibility – to act first and foremost in a client’s best interests. This is a standard that clients expect, but is not a standard required of most investment and estate advisors in Canada – who are often conflicted through their fee or commission compensation methodology.
We feel that our company name describes us and our service level very well.
We see the challenges families were facing: insufficient planning, ill-equipped family members and friends in the roles, and family members moving to out of province or country.
The range of services that have been developed is the culmination of many years of observing the gaps and challenges in estate planning and settlement services in Canada and abroad and adopting best practises. We asked different people who had been attorneys and/or executors, whether or not they would play that role again and most said “No” – due to the stress, the amount of time it took, and the impact on family relationships. Then, we put ourselves in the situation of a typical individual, someone who has found out that they need to do estate planning or have had an estate responsibility thrust upon them. We concluded that a one stop solution would be ideal, acting in the role of attorney or executor, or agent of those parties. The interested parties would have one point of contact, instead of trying to link all of the different professionals together themselves and have the tools and structures in place to facilitate seamless communication.
Most of the major banks do provide estate services, however, the feedback we’ve received is that these institutions tend to be impersonal and inflexible to deal with, and the fees are surprisingly high.
At Estate Stewards, we dedicate one person to be the point of contact for the individual(s) whose estate is being planned now and your heirs in the future. This person coordinates the professional team required to meet the unique needs of each client. In this way you and your heirs will feel more in control of the process. Our fees are transparent and typically noticeably less than other alternatives, leaving more money available for you and your beneficiaries with the confidence that your funds are held with a large financial institution.
We work very closely with your family lawyer, so that the wishes stated in the will are carried out. But most lawyers do not specialize in estates. We also work closely with the family accountant, since they have a good understanding of the finances involved. But, again, most accountants do not focus on estate work. Consequently, we find that there is an important role for us, to help the executor and the family.
Should you not have your owned preferred lawyer or accountant, we can fill the need with our trusted team of advisors.
Generally, registered financial advisors are not permitted by regulations to serve as powers of attorney or executors – or provide agent services for that matter. But if your financial advisor knows the family’s background very well, we work closely with the advisor so that the estate is handled appropriately. Again, this brings peace of mind to the family.
An Attorney for Property deals with financial matters and is only valid while the individual is alive. The role of a person who is appointed as an executor only becomes effective after someone has died.
Often, the person chosen to be the attorney for property is also named in the will as the Executor.
A power of attorney for property could actually last far longer than being an executor, since a power of attorney is vitally important if a person is incapacitated in some way, and this situation could carry on for many years.
At Estate Stewards, we can provide both of these roles – as an attorney right away, so that the planning and management of the assets is cared for immediately, and then later on, as an Executor or the agent for the Executor.
We believe that the more thoughtful the plan, the better the result — and thoughtful plans take time. So, we recommend that individuals contact us to begin the estate planning process early. To save on taxes and other considerations, it may be more appropriate to transfer part of their wealth earlier in life than they think, and this transfer can only be done after there is a thorough understanding of the wishes of the individual.
We try to reduce the number of times individuals will say “If only I had thought of doing that beforehand… .” So the earlier we start the conversation, the better — better for the individual, and better for the family.
Virtually everyone we have worked with has said “your services were vital to achieving our estate goals.” So, we feel that we can really be of help.