A recent poll by the Angus Reid Institute confirmed half of us Canadians (51%) still do not have a Will, while another 15% have out-of-date Wills.
The poll also probed the reasons so many Canadians are not getting around to having a Will written. 25% said the main reason was they are “too young to worry about it”, while another 23% said it was because “I don’t have any assets to worry about”. Other reasons included “it’s too expensive to get a Will written” (18%), “I don’t want to think about dying” (8%) and “it’s too time consuming to get a Will written” (5%).
Regardless of your age, having a Will is extremely important, and is well worth the time and expense.
A Will is a legally binding document allowing you to decide who will manage your money and property after you pass away (your Estate Trustee), and who will get your money and property.
Generally speaking, there are several benefits to making a Will. Doing so will allow you to:
- Decide who will handle your estate and distribute your assets
- Decide who will receive your assets in accordance with your wishes
- Reduce or defer taxes
- Avoid disputes and litigation (e.g., by providing directions for special property or items)
- Create trusts, (e.g. for minor children)
- Donate to charity upon death
After learning this, the next question people usually ask is “what happens if I die without a will?”
There are rules (set out in the Succession Law Reform Act) for what happens to your property if you die without a Will (known as dying intestate).
These rules are inflexible, and may end up benefiting the wrong people, at the wrong time, and in the wrong way. The rules are:
- If you have a spouse, but do not have children, your entire estate will be left to your spouse
- If you have a spouse and one child, your spouse will receive the “preferential share” (the first $200,000). The remainder will be divided between your spouse and child 50/50.
- If you have a spouse and more than one child, the first $200,000 will go to your spouse. The remainder of the estate will be divided as follows: 1/3 to the spouse, 2/3 to the children, divided equally. If only grandchildren survive, they would share the estate equally (per capita).
- If you have children, but are not married, all children share the estate equally
- If you do not have children or a spouse, your entire estate will go to your parents. If both of your parents are deceased, your siblings will share in the estate equally
- If there is no next of kin, the estate escheats or goes to the Crown (government).
In summary, a Will allows you to plan your estate by choice instead of default. Although you may write a (holograph) Will entirely in your own handwriting and sign it without witnesses, it is preferable to have your Will prepared by an estate planning lawyer who develops an understanding of your needs and drafts according to your objectives.
Now that you understand the importance of having a carefully prepared Will, make sure you are not part of the 51% who have not planned ahead!
We can help.