People Avoid Thinking About Death But Not Having A Will Can Be Costly
It’s staggering how many Albertans do not have a Will or any plan for the future. Typically, people know that making a Will is important. Yet this crucial estate planning item is often lodged on the “list of things to do” that never actually gets done. Don’t be one of the many Albertans who die intestate. An intestacy is where someone passes away without a Will. Here are 10 reasons why you should make drafting your Last Will and Testament a priority on your list. For more information, each section has a link to more specific wills and estates topics in the top 10 item. If you have any questions at all, call and speak to one of our wills and estates lawyers today.
1. A Will Can Avoid Family Disputes
It is not unheard of for families to fight over the distribution of assets after the passing of a loved one. A clear, properly drafted Will sets out exactly how you intend for the estate to be distributed. It makes things easier for your loved ones by having all of your affairs in order and their knowledge of how you want your items to be distributed. In short, a Will brings you and your family peace of mind and certainly that your last wishes are met… All without leaving people to fight. Estate litigation is expensive, emotional and usually only serves to deplete your estate and divide the family.
2. A Will Allows You To Control How Your Estate Is Distributed
Without a Will, you will be dying intestate. This means that provincial legislation will determine how your estate is to be divided. Dying intestate means that your estate will be distributed through blood lines. You will have no control who gets what or how much. Your estate is your life long work and you should have the control to determine what happens to it. The following situations are ones that are especially and routinely problematic when a person has no will:
- If you have no spouse or children
- If you don’t want your parents, siblings or other relative to receive all or some of your estate
- If you want to leave money to charity
- If you are separated and you do not want your ex to receive your estate
- If you have remarried and you want to balance gifts to your current spouse and your biological children
3. A Will Appoints A Personal Representative
A Will gives you the opportunity to appoint a personal representative (formerly referred to as an executor). A personal representative is someone you trust who can manage and take care of your affairs for you after you have passed on. With a properly executed Will, you can be comfortable with the knowledge that your personal representative will manage your estate with care and according to your wishes. If someone who does not understand how to manage an estate takes control, then it may affect what estate is left for your beneficiaries.
4. A Will Appoints A Guardian For Your Children
Appointing a guardian for your children is one of the single most important things a Will can do for you. You likely want someone you trust who has similar values/morals as you to raise and bring up your children. You likely also would want to ensure that your guardian has the appropriate lifestyle to take care of your children. Planning early can prevent family and friends from fighting over guardianship in court and will bring less strain and hardship to your children. For more information on this, see our Top 10 Factors To Consider When Picking Guardians blog. A guardianship order, if there is no appointed guardian, far exceeds the cost of having a Will in place.
5. A Will Allows You To Determine When Your Children Receive Their Share Of Your Estate
Should you die without a Will, Alberta law dictates that children are allowed to receive money from an estate when they reach the age of 18. Often times, parents do not feel like their children will be responsible enough to receive larger sums of money at such a young age. If you have no Will and you have a minor child, money may be held in trust at the Office of the Public Trustee and given to the minor in full when they reach the age of 18. With a Will, you can determine how much of the estate your children will receive and at what age. You can split up the payment of capital in into several smaller lump sums. With a Will, you can also set out that living expenses, education and other needs are paid for out of your estate. This is easier than having to make applications to the public trustee.
6. A Will Can Outline Your Funeral Wishes
Having conversations with your loved ones about what should happen to your remains after you pass can be a difficult conversation to have. However, these are important talks you need to have. With a Will, you can specify exactly how you wish for your body to be dealt with after you die, including whether you wish to donate your organs/tissues for transplant or for other purposes.
7. Updating A Will Is As Crucial As Implementing A New One
Updating or reviewing your current Will is essential because things change over the years. There are situations where updating a Will is crucial. In any of the following you should draft a new Will or draft a Codicil (an amendment to your existing Will). These include:
- Wills if you are recently married
- Wills if you are separated or divorced
- Wills if someone has died in your family
- Wills if you have a significant increase/decrease in your assets
- Wills if you recently purchased real estate
- Wills if you own your own business
- Wills if you are retired or retiring
- Wills if there has been any significant change in your life since your last executed Will.
8. A Properly Drafted Will Can Prevent Silly Mistakes
Speaking to a Wills and Estates lawyer and getting good legal advice on your estate planning is crucial to prevent mistakes. For example, not having your last Will witnessed properly can make your Will invalid. Another common error is putting your children as joint owners of your house to avoid probate; this can cause your children to pay more taxes after you pass and leaves open your estate to claims of the children’s creditors, as your house would now be considered an asset of your children.
9. A Will Allows You To Give Gifts To Non-Family Members And To Charities
Without a Will, non-family members and charities would receive nothing from your estate. Gifting something to a close friend allows you to reward someone whom you have been close with during your life. Similarly, gifting money to a charity allows you to express your goals and values that you held during your lifetime. In addition, gifting money to a charity allows for your estate to claim a tax deduction on your final tax return.
10. A Will Gives You The Opportunity To Talk To A Wills And Estates Lawyer
Although there are Wills kits available for purchase, those kits are often used incorrectly for the wrong jurisdiction, are outdated or are not filled in right. This can lead to invalid Wills. Talking to a lawyer can help ensure that you have an effective estate plan in place. It is best practice to consult a legal professional for help with drafting a Will to ensure that your estate is set up for the future.