Estate planning can be a tricky process, filled with difficult questions, complicated language, and big decisions. But before we get there, we will need to answer the first, perhaps most significant question of all; Why do I need a Will?
You may not know it, but whether you have a Will or not, you do have an estate plan. When you have a Will, that estate plan is drawn directly from your wishes and directions. When you do not have a Will, Ontario law sets out procedures for Intestate Succession, meaning your estate will be administered through default methods.
The default administration is strict. The first priority over the estate will go to your spouse and child(ren), if applicable, through a formulaic distribution. If you are unmarried and have no children, the estate will go to your parents, and down the line through your siblings, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, and then cousins, respectively (Succession Law Reform Act, RSO 1990, c S 26).
Beyond the actual beneficiaries of the estate, laws of intestacy also dictate that the Court will determine the executor, who will administer the estate. If you have minor children, the Court will also be making the decision of who to appoint as the guardian of your children, as well as be involved in managing the finances left for those children. Further, step-children are not recognized in any capacity under the legislation, nor are common-law spouses, and will not be entitled to any benefit.
This is only glimpse into how your estate will unwind when you do not have a Will. By creating a Will, you can take over the decision-making on all of these matters and have some control in what will happen with your estate once you are gone. You can provide for who and what you want. Through a Will, you can:
- Appoint a trusted executor to administer the estate;
- Ensure your children are under the guardianship you choose;
- Disinherit those who would otherwise inherit through succession laws, as well as provide for those who would otherwise not inherit by law, such as stepchildren, friends, etc.;
- Detail the distribution of personal effects, such as jewelry and art;
- Leave donations to charities or other groups;
- Strategize for tax considerations;
- Strategize to create a smoother, more timely administration of your estate.
A Will is the foundation of an estate. It allows you to set out your own wishes for your property, your family, and your legacy. When you put yourself in the driver’s seat and ensure your estate is dealt with in accordance with your wishes, you are seizing your opportunity to leave a settled estate for your loved ones, and taking steps to mitigate potential issues.
For more information or to book an appointment, please contact our office and we would be happy to help you prepare your Will.