Approximately 9 out of 10 families we meet with will not have a will, but have said, "we have been thinking about it but didn't know where to begin". Hopefully, this article will get you moving along and get peace of mind when you complete your will. Don't leave it to the court system.
It really seems kind of weird to not have a will. Most people don't have one because they don't really understand what a will is, how it is used, and why it is so important.
What is a will?
A will is a legal document that dictates how your estate should be handled or what is supposed to happen in times of death, illness, how financial decisions and health decisions are to be made should you become incapacitated. In my mind it is one of the most important steps a person should take and one of the most important documents you will ever have. I always tell my clients that if I had known how important this was to my wife I would have done it along time ago. My wife just needed that peace of mind that she and the children would be okay should something horrible happen.
What if I don't have a will?
In short, if you don't have a will, all decisions needing to be made could be decided by the court system. This may or may not be aligned with what you would have wanted. So don't leave it up to the courts and get your will done. The Wills and Succession Act dictates how your estate will be distributed. Now this is a 68 page document. Instead of reading the document, put that valuable time into meeting with a lawyer and putting a will in place.
What kind of things are in a will?
Here are some highlights:
- The Executor is the person who you determine you want to follow through with estate distribution as per your wishes as dictated by your will.
- On your death you decide who gets your property and assets.
- A Guardian is chosen. If you have children this is the person you have chosen to take care of them. Now this is not necessarily a decision to be taken lightly and that person should be aligned as closest as possible to your beliefs.
- A Trustee is chosen. If you have children that are minors (under the age of 18), you need to have a person designated to make financial decisions for them. If you any financial accounts or life insurance policies you can have your minor children as a beneficiary but you have to decide who the monies will be held in trust for them. This is probably the same person. Sometimes the Trustee might be the same person as the Guardian. For our family it is.
- A Personal Directive is completed. This is another legal document that names a person who will make decisions on your health should you not have the capacity to do so. An example of this is in our family my father in law had a stroke and was not able to speak or communicate to us so his personal directive made all decisions.
- An Enduring Power of Attorney is completed. This is another legal document where you name a person who will make any financial decisions or legal decisions on your behalf if you are determined to be incapable of making decision. If a person was to have sever dementia the Enduring Power of Attorney would take over.
Since a will is a legal document we advise you to meet with a lawyer to complete this. You also need to remember that as your life goes along you should do a quick review every year and see if you need to make any additional changes. Life changes and so should your will.
How do I get started in putting a will in place?
If you don't have a lawyer already, feel free to contact us and provide some names. A lawyer will have some prework for you to fill out before you go to their office to finalize. This step saves time and money. If you want to get a head start you can upload this RBC Will Preparation document (Link to page where they can request document and then it sends email to link for a download and then a thank you page - tracking). It will give you all the basics and decisions you will need to complete a will.
What about the online will kits?
In my opinion, the will kits you get online are a great place to get the documents, but I found that the lawyer made sure it was done correctly and that I understood it all. The kits leave everything up to you. They might be cheaper than doing with a lawyer, but will it be done right? Cheaper is not always the better way to go. I will admit that I have not checked out an online will kit for quite some time.
In our case, we had the peace of mind that our lawyer did it correctly and we understood it all.
How much does a will cost?
If you don't use a lawyer they can be done at no cost online. With a lawyer, I have seen them from $600.00 and go upwards of $1,500.00. The price does vary.