. . . there’s peace of mind. For you. And for your beneficiaries: your kids and anybody else you want to receive part of your estate. Of course it’s human nature not to want to think about your own death. But (as you know, and like taxes) death is inevitable. You need a will.
Of course we understand: money is probably not the most important thing to you. However, you do spend your whole life working hard and being frugal. So it’s very natural that you want to be sure that the wealth you have goes to the people who matter most to you. A will, properly prepared and properly executed is your best assurance that will happen.
What’s involved in proper preparation? Your lawyer will ask you lots of questions at your will instruction appointment and make lots of notes. Before you come to your appointment, it’s helpful of course for you to think about what assets you have: your property. That’s your savings and your real estate and your other special items, such as jewellery or art. All the things that have value to you.
Can you do whatever you want with your wealth? To an extent, yes you can: at least so far, in Ontario. However, it’s also helpful for you to think about people who might have a legal claim against your estate. Is there a former spouse and a separation agreement stipulating ongoing spousal support? Did you have a marriage contract or a cohabitation agreement with your current spouse? Are there children, whether adult or otherwise, who are still dependent upon you? Do you have a disabled child requiring special consideration? Your will should take into consideration not only what you want to have happen with your assets, but any obligations you may have to take care of other people. And your will stipulates whom you trust to carry out your wishes in administering your estate. So you want to think hard about who to appoint as your executor or your estate trustee and whether you need an alternative “back-up” trustee.
If you don’t want to share your property with your spouse or support your spouse after your death, your lawyer will explain your will can’t substitute for a marriage contract or cohabitation agreement. Naturally and even though taxes are as inevitable as death, you don’t want your estate reduced by paying more probate tax than necessary. However, putting your assets (your house, your bank accounts) into joint title with intended beneficiaries is in many circumstances not appropriate or effective “estate planning”. Again, your lawyer can explain when this isn’t a good idea.
The thinking that goes into your will, and the care with which your will is drafted: that’s what creates the real value in your will document. It’s also important to establish evidence that you have legal capacity to prepare your will, both at the time you give your instructions and when you come back after your will is drafted to sign it up: to “execute it”. For example, if you’re not leaving your estate equally among your children it could be hurtful to spell out your reasons within the will itself but very helpful for that reasoning to be recorded by your lawyer when you give your instructions.
That’s why your lawyer makes so many notes. Your lawyer’s notes can be used in evidence if your will is ever challenged in the future. Your lawyer’s notes may be evidence that you did have mental capacity and that you were not under any form of duress or coercion when you made your will and that the will as drafted and signed was in accordance with your intentions.
Of course you can buy a standard will form and fill it out yourself. Those will kits look official and are printed up on fancy paper. But too often standard form wills end up in estate litigation: estate litigation which can take years and costs tens of thousands of dollars and leave your kids at each other’s throats.
Not want you intended. And not what you ever wanted. That’s why preparing your will is an emotional and deeply personal experience for you. And after your will is in place, you’re not done for good: your will should be reviewed at least every five years or more often if a significant life event arises: a death of a beneficiary or an executor, a remarriage, a significant change in your asset portfolio.
If you are lucky, you’ll never need a lawyer except to buy and sell a house or to prepare a will and powers of attorney. At Anderson Adams, we prepare lots of wills, but they are never routine for us. We don’t forget: your will distributes the wealth you spent your lifetime achieving. And your will expresses to your beneficiaries in a tangible way just how much you love them and care about them after your death.
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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.