November is Make a Will Month
November is the Ontario Bar Association’s Make a Will Month, and it serves as a great reminder about the importance of making a will. In honour of the month, we explore some frequently asked questions about wills.
Why Is Having a Will Important?
A will allows you to determine what happens to your estate and provide financial security to your heirs in the event of your death.
Dying without a will, known as dying intestate, means the courts will determine what happens to your property as well as your children, leaving you with no guarantee that any wishes you may have had will be carried out.
You may wish to leave all of your estate to a single person, or you may want to leave specific items, such as jewelry or a car to a specific person. A will is the best way to ensure those wishes are followed through on
What Happens if I Don’t Have a Will?
Dying intestate (i.e. without a will) may lead to a long, drawn out process of dividing your estate, as there may be disputes as to what you wished or who is deserving of certain property. Your family may become involved in lengthy litigation to resolve any disagreements as to who is entitled to what after your passing. Having a will allows for a speedier distribution of your estate, mitigates any potential legal action, and allows division of property and other assets to proceed with much less conflict.
What Can I Include in My Will?
A will is much more than a way to divide property and assets.. Along with financial concerns, arranging for who will take care of minor children in the event of your death is one of the most important reasons to make a will.
With a will, you will be able to make decisions about who should be left in charge of your children’s care. Without a will, the court may make a decision as to which family member, or other appointed guardian, will be in charged with the care of your children.
In addition to naming someone to take care of your children, you can also name someone to act as a trustee for any property or money your children stand to inherit when they turn 18. The same person could perform both these roles, or you can assign responsibility to two people.
A will can also cover things such as charitable donations you may wish to make, or specific funeral arrangements you would like to have followed. A lawyer will walk you through such considerations when working with you to draft your will.
What is an Executor?
When drafting a will, it is important to name an “executor,” which is someone who takes care of your affairs after your death. They’ll pay any tax or other debts owing (including funeral expenses), and will make sure your wishes in your will are followed through on.
Without a will, people will have to step forward and apply for the responsibilities of the executor. If nobody steps forward, a public trustee may be appointed.
It’s not fun to think of the worst-case scenario, but planning for your loved ones after you are gone can leave you with the confidence that you are taking care of your family. The experienced lawyers at Arbesman Hamilton LLP have a long history of helping our clients plan for their futures. We can help you in every step of making a will and ensure that probate fees and taxes do not overly deplete your estate. Contact us online or at 416-481-5604 to schedule your appointment today.