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A surprising number of people do not have Wills. A recent study revealed that over half of Canadians haven’t gotten around to preparing their last Will and Testament, as it once was affectionately known. More surprisingly, even a number of lawyers don’t seem to have received or acted upon the information that a Will is important to have in place to address one’s affairs while one still can.
Think about it: The very last thing someone needs to do is execute a properly-drafted Will. However, there will come a time when this is too late.
“I don’t really own much. Why should I have a Will?”
I hear this sometimes but to be honest, I tend to consider it a humblebrag. Most people have something of value to distribute when this mortal coil is shed. The question is not what you have or what’s it worth. The question is “who gets it when you’re gone?”
People who have businesses, significant others (especially if not married but in a committed relationship), real property or children should seriously consider having a Will prepared. Without a Will, property will be distributed according a statutory distribution regime – to your married spouse, your children, parents, siblings, and outwardly from there according to the family relationship. You have no control over who your family members are; at least with a Will you can control which family members – if any – receive the Estate bounty when you’re gone.
A Will names the people who will administer your Estate, who in turn will prepare your taxes and distribute property according to your expressed wishes. You can name who you intend to have care for minor children in a Will.
“I don’t need a lawyer to prepare a will.”
This is true. Holograph Wills and executory Wills are perfectly legal documents to express your last wishes. However, the mistakes are on you if you get it wrong. Where will the Trustee look to find that oh-so-important document? With a lawyer-prepared Will, you receive legal advice while you’re giving instructions. Mistakes are on the lawyer who is insured if something is amiss. The lawyer takes steps to ensure that no mistakes are made.
A lawyer-prepared Will helps mitigate allegations of undue influence and the Will can be structured in a way so that it can be easily administered. I once had estate dispute involving a holograph (hand-written) Will. It distributed all the assets in the first clause and then set up a number of trusts – which could not be funded because all the assets had been distributed in that first clause. Confusion about the intended heirs and what was intended required several lawyers to sort it all out – but this is not done for free. Avoiding conflict and uncertainty with a lawyer-prepared Will allows peace of mind and leave more to be distributed to those who are left behind.
(And your lawyer will keep your Will in a secure place – no one has to root around in that forgotten bedroom drawer to find a Will that you may or may not have prepared.)
Make an appointment to see a legal professional who practices in the area of drafting Wills.
November is “Make a Will Month”. How may we help you?