Almost half of Canadians do not have a Will. Presumably persons wish to make Decisions about where their assets end up when they die. Do you want to ensure that the wealth you accumulated in a lifetime of effort goes to where you want? A properly prepared Will (often called a Last Will & Testament) that is regularly updated is the only way you are certain that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
There is not much you can control after your death but you can determine who will inherit your worldly assets if you leave a Will. No other important legal document and essential planning is more neglected,procrastinated, blocked out or given less importance, than one's Will. Of course we don't like to think about the last day of our future, but notice even the rich or famous haven't survived forever. Sadly, often death is sudden, premature or very unfair. We all forget that death comes anytime , anywhere and that means there is no tomorrow for making a Will. Do it now and do it right is my advice to clients.
Some will look for the cheapest way to make a Will but purchase the most expensive car they can manage. Sometimes Wills are arranged at the last minute in a hurry before embarking on a holiday trip. Some use a form kit from a Stationery store or what they find online. There is nothing preventing Canadians from drafting their own Wills.A do it yourself kit Will, has the same legal effect as one professionally prepared by a Lawyer. However, most experts strongly advise against doing it on your own. That may sound self serving by lawyers, but a legitimate concern. The problem lies in what has not been properly considered. There are many cases of what are called drugstore Wills, where the maker has a beneficiary as a witness-to invalidate the Will, or leaves out assets. Perhaps the Will does not address those disabled in the family or properly provide for spouses, etc. resulting in challenges from the government or litigation from other parties.
What are the consequences of dying without a proper Will? You are said to die Intestate-with your assets distributed under the Estates Administration Act by a government agency under rules and formulas not likely remotely resembling your true wishes. Some of the biggest tragedies are young couples who feel they cannot afford the legal costs but have young children. In this case, all of the couples assets are held by the Province, invested at lowly 1% returns or less, and questions of care and guardianship often contested with expensive acrimony.
Those who have Wills need them to be securely stored and reviewed annually,especially if people named have predeceased them , or with other changes in life, such as divorce, separation, or births of children. Sometimes the named Executor has moved far away or is in poor health and no longer suitable to act. An Executor who is appointed to carry out the terms in your Will should be a knowledgeable person
you trust and respect, and preferably residing nearby.Living nearby in the same Province allows them to better arrange funeral or celebrations of your life,handle legal affairs and avoid issues of bonding or expensive travel. The choice of your Lawyer experienced in this area is important to advise you on Will preparation and to help your
Executor carry out your wishes through Probating the Will.
My practice is to interview clients at some length to ascertain a full picture of their circumstances.
- Are some named beneficiaries minors or are any disabled?
- What provisions are made if one of your named beneficiaries or children predecease you or get divorced?
- Are their specific items you wish to bequest?
- Are your Grandchildren protected?
- Do your own children have their Wills in place to protect their children?
- Do your parents have their Wills in place and up to date?
- Where are the Wills located?
- Have you discussed the matter of Wills with your parents and children?
- Have you discussed with a financial advisor to devise ways of minimizing the tax impact on death?
- Have you placed your assets in Joint names to avoid the need for Probate or to reduce the costs of your Estate ? (Government fees in B.C. are 1.4% of the Estate value.)
Many are reluctant to raise the issue of Wills with their parents for fear of being considered insensitive or money hungry or making everyone uncomfortable.Parents often neglect to discuss the issue of their Wills with their children.
Some years ago, a related young couple with young pre-school daughters, announced they were going Heli- Sking over the Christmas break. On enquiry, I learned they had no Wills. My Christmas present to them was easy to determine- Wills to protect their family.
When you next join with your loved ones , perhaps during a holiday period,take time to discuss your plans for tomorrow, and include the need for everyone to have a Will and an Enduring Power of Attorney , and other legal documents in place.
Sometimes it is difficult for even the most caring family or friends to know your wishes.
Other Articles in future will address the need for directions about your future health care, personal care and financial affairs.
Urge your loved ones to have their Wills completed. And if you find yourself this year, to not have proper, up to date Will in place, a new Will could be the BEST GIFT TO THEM EVER.