Have you wondered what happens to your possessions and your family when you die? You shouldn’t.
If you have children, any material assets — like a home, investments or a business — or a substantial amount of debt, you need to have a will. Establishing a will forces you to think about the very awkward subject of death; and specifically, it details your wishes, such as how your assets are to be distributed, to whom, and for parents, it identifies a legal guardian for any minor children.
Without a will, you die “intestate,” which is fancy terminology to simply say the court decides these two things for you.
A national survey commissioned by Willful, an online estate planning company, through Angus Reid Forum was conducted during the month of June and it targeted parents with estate planning questions, specifically because this demographic, regardless of age, is exposed to the greatest financial and legal risks out of any group when they don’t have a will. The results showed that 65 per cent of parents with minor children don’t have a will, whereas those with adult children are far more likely to have one (only 37 per cent are without).
Don’t be that person without a will: Historically, the most difficult part about a will is making one. It used to be that you’d need to pay hundreds of dollars, sometimes thousands, to a lawyer to draft one up for you and your spouse. But, there are options these days. For less than the cost of a dinner out with your honey, you can DIY your will through an online will-making platform such as Willful.co, LegalWills.ca, or FormalWill.ca in as few as 30 minutes, or draft one up through a paper-based will kit, which some registry offices make available on-site. Still, others prefer using their lawyer, and as my fiancé and I recently found out, this is typically an add-on offer that real estate lawyers make to you as you’re closing on a house purchase.
Making a will also requires organizing your assets, liabilities, insurance policies, etc., and that no longer needs to be a painful exercise. You can quickly get organized with a Google Sheet (list everything and where critical documents are located) or use an online estate organizing app like SideDrawerApp.com.
Decide these three things before making a will: To make the process more simplified, decide who your executor will be, how you want your assets to be distributed and pick a legal guardian for your minor children.
For your executor, the person who deals with your estate after you pass, pick someone who is responsible, organized, and has some legal or administrative experience in their background. And, ensure you consult with them first before committing them to the process. I, for example, am the executor for both of my parents’ wills because of my financial expertise.
How you split your assets also requires a great deal of thought. Do you want certain assets to go to your spouse versus your children (heads-up that every province has rules around what must go to the spouse)? When would you like your children to have access to those assets? What if you survive your spouse or children? Then where do the assets go?
Picking a guardian for your children is high stakes and both you and your partner need to be aligned on this. Strike anyone off the list that shouldn’t be a caregiver for whatever the reason, including them simply not wanting to be one. As my love and I approach the delivery date for our first baby in August, we are in the throes of this discussion and evaluating potential guardian candidates based also on health, financial capacity, shared values, age, location, and more.
Already have one? If you’re patting yourself on the back because you have a will, ask yourself if it’s still valid. If it’s dated, namely because you’ve been through a major life event such as marriage, divorce, or having a child, it’s pretty much useless.
The bottom line with wills is most adults in Canada need one that’s current. Thankfully getting a will is easier and less expensive than it used to be. So, if you were thinking of buying a new cooler for your drinks for Canada Day, use that money for a will instead.