Wills: Not just for people with large estates

Ottawa lawyer Timothy Sullivan on Wills

by Timothy Sullivan, Principal 

We hear it all the time: “I don’t have much, so I don’t need a Will.”

Preparing a Will is a conscious effort. From deciding to have one, discussing with your intended heirs, finding the lawyer you’re comfortable with and going through the appointments with a lawyer and the decision-making about who to put in charge and what to leave to whom, instructing a lawyer to prepare a Will is no small effort.

Not making a Will can be a conscious decision, too, but unfortunately for many, it’s just overlooked. And it shouldn’t be.

It’s the ‘unknowns’ that count

The size of your estate should only be a small factor in the decision not to prepare a Will. It’s the unknowns that count. A Will speaks from the moment of death so you cannot know what you will have in the future or even what you could have to distribute after death. The short and long of it is, you don’t know how you’re going to die.

Our responsibilities don’t end on death, either. A deceased may continue to have responsibilities for a dependent. Income taxes I have to get filed. Many bills have to be paid. A person may come into some wealth by inheritance or other windfall later in life. One’s manner of death may attract potential wealth for an estate.

If you die without a Will, the ordinary rules of intestacy apply. But there won’t be anyone in charge to make the decisions.

Insurance claims may be available to an Estate depending on the manner of death. The wrongful conduct of a defendant may trigger an insurance policy or other source of damages available for distribution to dependents or heirs. However, someone has to be in charge to administer the Estate and to negotiate for you and ensure  a wrongdoer, or to instruct counsel to negotiate or commence litigation. The mundane of wrapping up an Estate are but some of the tasks left unaddressed for an Estate without a Will to guide it.

Dying without a Will leaves no one in charge and no one to make decisions. Dependants, heirs and favourite charities and causes may go without when there is no decision-making made on your behalf once you are gone to the eternal reward.