Have You Reviewed Your Will Lately?
A Will is a legal document which provides for the distribution of your property to anyone named as your beneficiary after your death and appoints someone to administer your estate. Since no one likes to dwell on this inevitable aspect of life, many people put off making their Will, or do not review their Will on a regular basis. In fact, a majority of Canadians under 65 do not have an up-to-date Will. In addition to the emotional reasons, many people mistakenly think they don’t need a Will.
Some people assume that if one spouse dies, the other spouse will automatically inherit everything. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Although provincial statutes do govern what family members may inherit “automatically” without a Will, in the case of a deceased spouse, the survivor may automatically inherit only the first $200,000 dollars of the estate, as is the case in Ontario. If there is any surplus, they would share it with their children.
Many people living in common-law relationships believe they have the legal equivalent to marriage. While this is true for income tax purposes, such as spousal RRSP contributions, it is not as clear-cut when it comes to your estate.
For example, in Ontario, even if you and your common-law spouse have been living in a common-law marriage for 40 years, the provincial intestate succession law does not apply. The surviving spouse would not automatically inherit anything! That’s another reason why a carefully written Will is so important.
In addition, there are provincial laws dealing with the right to financial support. Married spouses may have a right to an equalization payment under the provisions of the Ontario Family Law Act. But the only way to ensure that your surviving spouse receives what you intended for him/her, is to have a valid, up-to-date Will.
Your Will could end up controlling how every single dollar you ever saved is distributed to your heirs. It could determine how a loved one, unable to care for himself or herself, is taken care of. Without proper planning and legal advice, a poorly drafted Will (or no Will at all), can tear a family apart forever.
Wills are often prepared quite affordably by lawyers. Preparing your Will involves spending time gathering and listing all information about your assets, deciding who you want to benefit, who you want to administer your estate, and reviewing the various options available to minimize taxes in your estate.
Although many people do not wish to turn their mind to making a Will or simply put it off “forever,” it is one of the most important matters that you should attend to.