Maybe you’ve already read our blog, “Where there’s a will . . . (there’s peace of mind)”.
If you haven’t, and perhaps need a bit more information about why making your will matters, here’s the link: https://www.andersonadams.ca/blog/where‑theres‑a‑will.html.
So once you’ve made an appointment to give will instructions, what can you expect? What information would it be helpful to have at your fingertips when you meet with your lawyer?
At Anderson Adams, you can expect that the appointment for will instructions will take about an hour. We’ll most often begin by asking about your personal circumstances.
What is your spousal status? Married or common law? Do you have dependants: people who are relying upon you now to support them? And even if you are not supporting them, who are your other family members? Are there marriage contracts or separation agreements or court orders arising out of a separation or divorce that may govern your distribution of your assets? Your spouse, your children, your parents, your brothers and sisters, their children: we like to have a clear understanding of your family tree.
What’s your health? Are you taking any medications? Have you recently received a diagnosis which is worrying you?
Have you made a will or powers of attorney (for personal care, for property) before? How long ago? Where are the originals of those documents? Most people should have their wills reviewed at least every five years. Have your circumstances changed since you made that previous will, and how? Have you acquired new assets or given away or sold assets you used to own? Have you separated or divorced? Has a beneficiary died?
What are your assets and your debts? We’d like to know about your real estate, your bank accounts and all the rest of the wealth you’ve accumulated (and yes, be assured that this is solicitor and client confidential information). But all of this information helps us understand the extent of your estate: both what you have to give after your death to your beneficiaries and who those beneficiaries will be – the people who are legally entitled to benefit from your estate and the people you may want to benefit from the wealth you’ve accumulated during your lifetime.
Do some of your assets pass outside your estate: maybe policies of life insurance with designated beneficiaries, or RRSPs or RRIFs? Are you sure what beneficiaries you have designated already: have you checked?
Do you have jointly held real estate or bank accounts? Are you sure how your assets are held: have you checked? And if the assets are joint, what was your intention when you set up those joint assets: that the person joint with you would get the entire benefit of the value of that asset at your death by right of survivorship, or that the joint asset holder would share that asset with other beneficiaries?
What about corporate or off-shore assets?
Who do you trust to administer your estate as your estate executor or trustee? One person or two people? And if that person or persons cannot act for some reason (or even refuses to act), who would you like to administer your estate in the alternative?
Do you have minor children? Do you wish to appoint a testamentary guardian of your children if you should pass away while they are still minors?
And do you have possible minor beneficiaries? At what age do you think that they should inherit? Are there circumstances under which you would want their parents or guardians to have access to the gift you intend to leave to the minor children? Maybe your children are adults and already married themselves. Do you want your children’s spouses (present or future) to inherit or only your children themselves? Or your children’s children: your grandchildren?
Do you want to think about a caregiver for your beloved dog or cat or other pet?
Have you thought about making a bequest to a charity or maybe a religious organization or educational institution? Should you also consider powers of attorney for property or personal care?
It’s a lot to think about. That’s why that initial appointment to give will instructions takes about an hour. Why you may have many questions for your lawyer, who will listen attentively and answer them. And why the lawyer asks so many questions and takes so many notes and may in some cases also advise you to obtain further tax advice.
After that first appointment is over, the lawyer will draft the will and send it to you for review. Are there changes needed? Further questions?
When you feel confident that your will sets out your wishes, it’s time to schedule that next appointment which you can expect will also take about an hour. Your lawyer will meet with you again to make sure that your will is properly executed (signed and witnessed).
The cost of a simple will where corporate and off shore assets aren’t at issue? Generally much less than the cost of three hours of a lawyer’s time. And worth it: to make sure your hard-earned wealth goes where you want it to go.
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Anderson Adams is always pleased to note the high readership of the blogs on our website and we hope that you have found this blog interesting. If you have a particular legal problem, then you deserve legal advice and a legal opinion specifically related to your particular circumstances. Please make an appointment with a legal professional in your jurisdiction. If Anderson Adams can help you, we invite you to contact our firm by telephone, 705 436-1701, and book an appointment. One of our clerks will take down a detailed note over the phone so that we can be ready to address your concerns when we meet with you.