Whether you are organizing meals for the next week, researching or booking accommodations for next year’s vacation, or making arrangements for something unpleasant – like having a will or trust set up to deal with our assets after death – planning ahead is important. While most of us are none too thrilled about the concept of planning for our own deaths, when the inevitable happens, having a will in place can make things much easier for our loved ones.
What Does a Will do Anyway?
In essence, a will lays out a plan for how you want your assets to be distributed. Perhaps you have been listed among the beneficiaries of a departed relative or friend and, as a result, received some extra property or funds. In order for you to receive these additional assets, the benefactor’s wishes were most likely set out in a will. A formal will is a legal document that essentially states who should inherit what – and how much – once you pass on. While there isn’t a legal requirement to have a will drawn up by a lawyer, consulting with a lawyer can ensure that your will is properly drafted and true to your wishes.
Do I Really Need A Will?
Without a doubt, yes.
Without a will in place, you have no control over what happens to your assets after death. If one dies intestate – without a will – their estate is distributed according to provincial legislation. In cases where the departed has no will, the courts appoint a trustee to manage and distribute your estate. This person is often your closest relative. It’s important to know that the process of settling your estate can be lengthier and more expensive than if you have a will. Another issue to consider is that most provinces do not have provisions for common law spouses.
Consider a Trust Fund
Trust funds are not just for the wealthy – anyone is able to set one up. There are many types of trusts. Among other things, trusts can help minimize estate taxes after-death, protect beneficiaries against their own inability to handle finances, help protect privacy (terms of wills become public after death, terms of trusts do not), and enable the grantor to maintain control over how their assets are used. For more information on trusts check out our resource section here.
How Do I Make a Will?
The cost of drafting a will is cheap compared to the peace of mind of knowing that your loved ones will be cared for according to your wishes.
Depending on the experience of your lawyer, and the complexity of your needs, drafting a will will run you in the area of $500-2000.
Here are some important tips:
- Appoint an executor – they are the ones who will be responsible for settling your estate according to the wishes outlined in your will once you pass on. They will also be responsible for overseeing any other outstanding necessary financial obligations (such as debts and taxes) prior to distributing your assets. It is common practice for another family member or long time friend to be assigned this this role.
- Set guardians for any children under the age of 18 (make sure to discuss this with your potential guardians).
- Once you have drawn up your will, ensure that the original is kept in an extremely safe spot as the original copy of the will is required for probate.
- Update your will as factors and situations change in your life. What you wrote down at age 30 might drastically need to be changed at age 50.
Need help drafting a will? Search our listing of qualified local wills, estates and trusts lawyers to find the best lawyer for your needs.
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