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Importance of making a will

A will is a complex legal document and there are rules and formalities that must be followed to ensure that it is valid.  Each individual person should have their own legal will.

Without a will you cannot appoint executor(s), guardian(s), gift specific assets, or provide burial preferences.  Without a will your estate is directed to your next of kin. It can be a long and costly process if there is no will providing direction.  If you do not have any remaining relatives your assets will become the property of the government.

A will is a legal document that states what you would like done with YOUR assets when you die.  This may not include assets that are jointly owned (e.g. joint bank accounts, jointly owned house).  It also doesn’t apply to assets like life insurance, etc.  that have a designated beneficiary.

It is suggested that you review your will every 3-5 years, or as circumstances (e.g. marriage, children, divorce) or laws change.

Things to consider when making a will

The court will take the wishes of a child 12 years of age or older into consideration.

Verify the definition of spouse with your lawyer when making a will (e.g. common law, same sex partners, etc.).

Keep a copy of your will with your lawyer and in a safety deposit box or fireproof location, and notify your executor as to its whereabouts.

An executor should be a person you trust and who is willing to take on the responsibility.

Guardian(s) will be needed if you have any minor children.  Your guardian(s) is responsible for the care of your child. The property or money should be managed by a trustee, who you should appoint in your will.

Probate fees must be paid to confirm that the will is legally valid.

Taxes on your assets are paid by the estate.  You can reduce this income tax liability by making charitable gifts in your will.

What to bring to your lawyer

1.  Take a list of names and addresses of family members and their relationship to you.
2.  Take the names and addresses of any people or organizations you want to make a gift to.
3.  Make a list of all your assets (e.g. house, car, investments, etc.).
4.  Take title documents for any real estate you own.
5.  Take insurance policies listing any and all beneficiaries.
6.  Take pension and RRSP documents, etc., listing any and all beneficiaries.
7.  Take separation agreements, if applicable.
8.  Make a list of your choices for executor(s), guardian(s) and trustee(s) with their contact information.

The cost to create a legal will compared to legal fees created when there is a problem with the distribution of your estate is something to seriously consider.

Sources:

www.cbabc.org/for-the-public/dial-a-law/ (the Canadian Bar Association, British Columbia branch)

http://zvulony.ca/2010/articles/will-and-estates/why-need-will/ (Zvulony & Co.)

http://retirehappy.ca/consequences-if-you-die-without-a -will/ (retirehappy written by Jim Yih)