Editor’s Note: Comox Valley family lawyer Pauline Rae of Nowicki & Rae is here today to discuss getting your affairs in order so that – in case something happens to you – your family is cared for. Writing a will is a hard thing to think about, but so very important. Pauline tells us why.
Do any of these statements sound familiar?
I don’t need a will because:
· It’s too expensive.
· My family will know what to do with my assets when I die.
· I am young and healthy.
· I don’t own anything of value.
· My parents can look after my children if I die before my kids reach adulthood.
In our culture, death is a taboo subject, even though most of us have lost someone close to us. People don’t like to talk about it, let alone plan for it. We just don’t want to think about the possibility of dying. And yet, as we all know, it is the one event in life we can count on.
What happens if you die without a will?
· You don’t get to decide what happens to your property. The government decides who gets what and how much.
· Your estate will likely pay more income tax than it needs to.
· Someone has to be appointed by the court to administer your estate – this costs money and takes a long time and it may not be the person or people you want it to be. The money to pay for this comes out of your estate – money that could be going to your loved ones.
· You may be saving money now by not paying for a will, but in the long run it costs more and is more hassle for those you leave behind.
Advantages of having a will
· You can decide how you wish your estate to be divided and you have the opportunity to minimize costs and taxes to your estate.
· You can choose who will raise your children.
· You can appoint someone you trust to administer your estate.
· With a will, you can leave things to particular people who may or may not be related to you. Want to leave your favourite mountain bike to your biking buddy? Want to pass along that heirloom necklace from your grandmother to your niece? Want to leave a legacy to the SPCA? Then you need a will. Otherwise your assets will be divided among family members according to a formula set out in the Estate Administration Act.
Preparing and reviewing your will
Although there are will kits available, your best bet is to consult a lawyer to ensure that your wishes are truly taken care of. Do you buy a DIY book to perform a root canal or surgery, cut your hair, replace your car’s transmission, or rewire your home?
If you already have a will, then give yourself a pat on the back. Just make sure, however, to review it regularly, especially if your family or financial circumstances change. You want to make sure it is up to date and relevant. For example, if you marry, divorce, have children, permanently move outside the province, your executor dies, or you win the lottery, take a good look at your will and ensure that it still meets your needs.
Important considerations for choosing a guardian of minor children
If you have children, you can designate a guardian(s) in your will – decide who will raise your children if you and your partner die before your children reach adulthood. You will most likely think very carefully about who would be suitable to raise your children in your absence. You would want to choose someone who is able and willing to do the job, and who would raise your children according to values that are similar to your own, or that you respect.
Think about parenting styles, whether the person has the energy and time for this important job, and whether there is someone who has a close relationship with your children.
Think about age – your parents may seem like the ideal choice to raise your infant children, but how old will they be when your children are in their teens? Think ahead. Grandparents may or may not be a good choice.
Don’t forget to check with the person or people you want to be your children’s guardians to make sure they are willing to take on the responsibility.
A closing thought…
If you want to be the one choosing the trusted individuals who will administer your estate and look after your children, and if you want to be the one deciding how your estate is divided, then get a will. If you want to save your spouse, children and other beneficiaries a lot of money, effort and time at an already very difficult time, then make sure you spend a little time now preparing your will.
You purchase house insurance. You are willing to pay this money year after year. You don’t expect that your house will be robbed or flooded or burned down, but you are prepared just in case. You want you and your loved ones to be taken care of should anything happen to your home. You know that it is entirely possible that you will spend decades paying hundreds of dollars a year for insurance that you never make a claim on. So how come it is so difficult to spend less than the cost of a year’s worth of house insurance to provide for your loved ones when you die – an event that is unavoidable and guaranteed to happen?!
There are many advantages to having a will. What are the disadvantages? Well, um, hmmm ….. Actually, I can’t think of any.
This article should not be interpreted as providing legal advice. Consult your legal adviser before acting on any of the information contained in it.