Updated: Aug 29, 2019
Having a will is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, your legacy, and family.
A will will protect your assets, spouse, children, amongst others, and makes it clear how you would like your assets to be handled and split after you have passed on.
Here are 8 reasons you need a will to protect your assets, your business, and your family.
1. You can decide who are your beneficiaries.
Without a will (which means you would be intestate), the court decides how to split your estate, which means that people you have in mind as beneficiaries may not receive what you had in mind for them.
Keep in mind that in Ontario, you have the duty to make adequate provision for certain dependents, such as a spouse (married or common law) or children. These dependents can make a claim against the estate for support if you do not make adequate provision for them. However, in order for them to qualify for support, they must have been financially dependent on you prior to your death.
If you are interested in learning how to eliminate or reduce how much a dependent receives from your estate, please get good legal advice from our team.
Please also note that, when deciding who will be your beneficiaries, you should not assume people younger than you will outlive you. You should think carefully about what would your wishes be if any (or even all) beneficiary or beneficiaries pre-decease(s) you.
If you have assets in more than one jurisdiction, you can consider multiple wills (more on this in an upcoming blog post).
2. You can decide who will take care of your minor children.
A will allows you to appoint who can take care of your minor children.
Without a will, the court will choose your children's guardian from family members or even a state-appointed guardian. The court may choose someone you would not necessarily want raising your children.
3. You can avoid a lengthy probate process.
All wills must go through a probate process, but having a will makes the process simpler and easier.
Without a will, the courts will decide how to divide estate on their own, leading to long turn-out times and delays.
4. You can decide who makes sure your estate's affairs are all in order after your death.
A will allows you to appoint executors, who will take care and manage your estate's affairs after your death. They will pay off bills, notify the bank and other businesses, and cancel your credit cards.
Important points to consider regarding executors:
Make sure you appoint someone you trust as your executor, since they have a lot of important responsibilities. Note that being an executor is a difficult job that requires a lot of paperwork, integrity, and judgment.
You should choose someone who is well-versed in finances, prudent, and patient for the job, since the executor may need to carry out strenuous tasks for months or even years at an end. Do not choose someone who will have a conflict of interest with you. You may also want to name an alternative executor in case your named executor is no longer able or interested to act.
Executors are usually compensated, usually around 5% of the estate.
Executors' duties include (but are not limited to) the following:
Making sure the wishes of the deceased are followed as laid out in the will
Accounting to beneficiaries
Securing and appraising the assets of the deceased
Distributing the assets of the estate
Ascertaining the date of death and determining the adjusted cost base of each asset
Assist or make funeral arrangements
For more information, please check out this Task List for Executors by the Bank of Montreal.
5. You can avoid giving all or part of your estate to someone you never intended as a receiver.
Without a will, part or all of your estate may end up in the hands of someone you never intended, for example, a relative you barely know or a relative you have decided to cut ties with.
6. Make gifts and donations to loved ones and organizations.
Wills allow you to make gifts to individuals and organizations alike.
7. There has been a change in life circumstances and you want to change your will.
Wills are always changeable and are necessary if you have just gotten married or divorce or someone is born or has died.
8. You and your family will sleep more peacefully knowing that you have made a will, because the future is never certain.
Unfortunately, tragic life events may happen any time, before one has the chance to make a will.
To avoid such stressful, unexpected developments, it is a good decision to make a will with an estates lawyer as soon as possible.
You can contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn more about how we can create a personalized will for you.
Disclaimer: This blog post is for general information purposes only and is NOT intended to be relied upon for legal advice, or to be construed as legal advice. Please consult with us directly through email (email@example.com) for legal advice about your specific situation.
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