Thinking about and completing your will can be an intimidating task, and one that is difficult to accomplish adequately without legal guidance. However, by completing a will you will secure many important benefits that make it a worthwhile undertaking!
- Having the peace of mind of knowing that your wishes will be carried out and that your family will be cared for in how you intend.
If you make a will, you may choose exactly how you would like your estate divided. If you die “intestate”, or without a will, you lose that right, and your estate will be divided according to the Wills and Estates Succession Act (“WESA”). This division of assets may be contrary to your wishes. For reference, the Canadian Bar Association provides information about how your estate is divided under WESA if you do not have a will in their article: What Happens When you Die Without a Will.
- A will allows you to choose your minor children’s guardian, and set out how the children will be provided for.
If you are a parent and you die without a will, the guardianship of your children may be determined by the courts in ways you did not intend or contemplate. For children, the court’s foremost consideration is “the best interests of the child”, not necessarily the apparent intentions of the parent. The only way to set out your wishes regarding the guardianship of your children is by completing a will.
- You can decide who will settle your estate.
By naming an executor, you can name a person you trust to settle your estate. The person you select should be reliable and organized, as this is an important and sometimes complex undertaking. Should you wish to have more than one individual act as your executor, you may name two or more people to act together or as alternates. In this way, someone you trust will act as the executor of your estate.
- A will prevents your estate from passing to unintended beneficiaries.
WESA provides for certain rights for family members, depending on your relationships. This does not account for those relationships that are strained or that you may have ended. Without a will, the father, sister or child you no longer have in your life could inherit part or all of your estate.
- A will allows you to make specific “bequests” or to leave certain items to specific individuals as you wish.
A will allows you to set out your wishes regarding those that items you wish for certain individuals to have after you have passed. This is important when items have sentimental value to those beneficiaries and there may be a dispute over who get what.
- A will allows you to make gifts and donations to charities and others.
If you would like part of your estate to go to a charity or organization, you can clearly and specifically set that out in your will. You may wish to ensure that a certain percentage, up to a certain dollar value, goes toward a cause you believe in, but only that amount and no more. You may also wish to give your Trustees the ability to support a similar cause or organization should that charity no longer exist at the time of your death.
- A will allows you to plan your estate in such a way as to minimize estate taxes and probate fees.
There are several ways to plan your estate to minimize tax payments and probate or other administrative fees. Consulting with a lawyer in this respect will help you to maximize the amount you pass on to your loved ones.
- Understanding your estate planning options.
One of the best reasons to seek legal advice about your will is that your lawyer can explain and explore your other estate planning needs and options, including the possibility of completing a Power of Attorney, a Representation Agreement, Nomination of Committee, Personal Declaration respecting your Health and Personal Care, and/or an Advance Directive for Health and Personal Care.
The best time to consider and set out your wishes regarding your Health and Personal Care is when you are healthy and have the legal ability or “capacity” to complete documents.
- A will can help the administrators of your estate to avoid court and costs.
Absent a will, the administrator of your estate must approved by the court to act. This may cause delays and additional costs, which will come out of the estate and reduce the money available to your beneficiaries.
- A will can help to prevent disputes among family members.
A carefully drafted will makes your intentions and wishes clear, and provides specific instructions for how you would like assets divided, so there is no question of your wishes. In addition, you may indicate in your will the reasons for certain decisions you have made, possibly preventing a challenge to the will.
Completing a will is the only way to ensure that the choices you make about your estate are respected and fulfilled. We would be happy to discuss your estate planning needs with you and draft a will that is accurate and cost effective.