According to various surveys conducted throughout Canada, over 57% of Canadians do not have a will. If you are part of that number, or feel like your will may be outdated, this article is for you. Regardless of your personal circumstances or relationship status, having an up to date will is one of the most important documents that you could create during your lifetime. In this article, we discuss why it is important to have a will.
First of all, lets discuss what happens when you die without a will. In Canada, if you die without a will, you’ve died intestate and your estate is distributed to your next of kin by the government under provincial law. The provincial courts will decide what happens to your property and it may be very different from how you would have originally intended. Further, the added stress on the loved ones you have left behind is amplified when you die without a will, and it could even leave a common-law-spouse without a right to a share of the estate. The courts will decide who is able to administer your estate, who will be a guardian for your children, and how your money and property is distributed.
Lets dive into a few of the details and discuss how a very simple act of making a will can have a dramatic and positive effect to your estate.
By making a will, you can:
- Clearly provide for your loved ones, children, and grandchildren as you wish
- Decide who will receive your home and your property
- Clearly define who should receive your personal posessions such as your jewellery, vehicles, money and investments
- Provide instructions about who will take care of your children and dependents
- Leave clear instructions about your end of life ceremonies, and how they will be paid for
- Name an individual who will administer your estate
A will is a legal document that also may:
- Avoid delays or disputes while settling your estate
- Reduce administrative paper work for your family
- Ensure the settlement of your estate is personal, clearly defined with intention and clarity
- Provide peace of mind about your wishes expressed to your family and loved ones
- Reduce the governements involvement in your estate
Okay, so what should I put in my will?
Ideally, your will should be signed by you and witnessed by two people who have witnessed you signing your will. The witnesses should be over age 18 and should not be beneficiries or the spouse of a beneficiary. Most commonly a will is witnessed by the legal professional who helped prepare the document for you and somebody in their office. If you prepare the will yourself, ensure you have independent signatories to witness to ensure the will is valid.
Further, some of the contents of a will may include:
- Nomination of an executor
- Full names and addresses of your beneficiaries (even if you have named beneficiaries on investments and life insurance policies)
- A complete list of your assets and where they are located. Some examples of assets could include personal possessions, land, bank accounts, investments, animals or livestock, vehicles, grain, buildings etc.
- A list of your debts including mortgage debt, including who holds the debt (the bank or lender that has lent you money)
- A complete list of your wishes regarding who you wish to inherit a specific asset
- A complete list of items you wish to give to specific people.
- Expressed instructions for who should care for your children and dependents
I had a will done up before I got married, do I need a new one?
You may! You should update your will when you:
- Have a child, or when your child has a child (Grandchild)
- You get married, divorced, or enter into a cohabitational relationship/common law relationship
- You move to another address, or to another province or country
- One of the beneficiaries in your will dies, or you no longer wish for them to receive your peropty.
- You acquire new valuable property, posessions, or restructure your affairs in such a way that it would revoke original wills. Any changes to a will should be dated, and should be witnessed by two parties as noted above.
Do I need a lawyer for this?
You do not need a lawyer to help you write a will; however it is sure helpful and highly advised especially if your estate is complicated. Some examples where you may wish to hire a lawyer to help you prepare a will are:
- Your child or dependent has special needs
- You own a business or are in a partnership
- You own property, or multiple properties/land
- Have assets of significant value
- You have a split family and want to ensure there are no potential challenges to your estate.
Whether it is your first time considering a will, or you need a revision and have some questions, a little bit of research and asking for help will go a long way. You do not need to spend a fortune preparing a will, but dying without one could cost your estate big time. Preparing for our untimely demise well ahead of time and ensuring our wishes are to be carried out you intended will ensure your memory will last on forever and your wishes will be respected well beyond the grave.