Introduction to Preparing a Will
Everybody should have a Will; not making a Will is unfair to those you leave behind. Even if your plans for estate distribution are simple and you do not have many assets, it is still much easier for the people that you leave behind to work with a Will than to resolve the estate of a person who has died intestate (without a Will). If you do not feel that you have significant assets now, remember that your Will only comes into effect when you die, not now, and you cannot possibly predict how large your estate will be when your Will is required. Preparing a Will is one of the most important tasks you can undertake if you have loved ones, sadly most of us put it off until it is too late.
By law, any competent adult can make their own legal Will; the law does not require you to have an attorney or a lawyer, to do this. A Will does not need to be a complicated document; it simply has to clearly state your wishes for the distribution of your estate.
Must my Will go through probate?
To understand whether or not your Will needs to go through the probate process, you have to understand what happens after you have died.
Hopefully you have written a Last Will and Testament.
In your Will you name an Executor. This is the person that you entrust to gather and secure your assets. Your Executor then has to distribute the assets according to the instructions in your Will.
The Executor must collect up everything you own, keep it safe and secure until everything has been collected, and then pass these possessions and financial assets to your beneficiaries.
Let us imagine a scenario.
Imagine your Executor going to your bank and presenting them with the Will. They explain to the bank that you have died and they show your Will to the cashier. The Will names your Executor. The person you have named shows their ID and they request the contents of the bank account. This person could even be one of your own children. Continue reading
What is the purpose of a Will?
Your Last Will and Testament allows you to speak after you have passed away. It does absolutely nothing and has no powers whatsoever all the time you are alive. But as soon as you die your Will has two key functions: it allows you to make key appointments and it allows you to describe the distribution of your assets. These assets include money, possessions, houses, investments, everything that you own. Making a Will is one of the most important responsibilities of every adult, and it should not be put off until a distant day in the future when you are “old”.
You should not think of making a Will as a once-in-a-lifetime event. You should always have a Will in place that reflects your current situation. You should write your first Will as soon as you are an adult, and then update it throughout your life as your circumstances change.
Your Key Appointments
By Making a Will you can make two key appointments.
This is the person you entrust to carry out the instructions in your Will. They have the responsibility to arrange your funeral, gather and secure your assets, and then distribute them according to the instructions in the Will. It is a very important appointment. Continue reading
What is a Mirror Will?
A Mirror Will is actually two Wills, usually created by partners or married couples. The two Wills typically name each partner as the main beneficiary of the other partner’s estate. There may be other specific gifts within the Will, such as gifts to charities, but the two Wills look identical to each other, except that typically, the name of the main beneficiary is the partner of each testator.
Person A leaves everything to Person B. Person B leaves everything to Person A.
Then for the two Wills to be true mirror Wills, each Will describes an identical alternate plan in the event that both partners are involved in a common accident. Often this is that the entire estate is then distributed to the children.
According to a recent survey conducted by BMO Bank of Montreal, 89 percent of Canadians consider their pets to be a member of their family. It stands to reason then that most people would want to ensure that somebody looks after their pet after they are gone. But hardly any Canadians have set up a pet trust to ensure that their pet receives proper care after they are gone.
If you make no provision for your pet as part of your estate plan, your dog or cat could potentially end up at the humane society. In 2015 82,000 cats and 35,000 dogs were taken into Canadian shelters, of which 48 per cent of dogs and 57 per cent of cats were adopted.
A Pet trust is not just for the wealthy
Whenever there is mention of a pet trust in the news, it is usually because of an extreme bequest, or staggering wealth of the pet owner. We saw is with Leona Helmsley who in 2008 left $12 Million to her pet Maltese. Continue reading
How to Contest or Challenge a Will
For many of us the loss of a family member is a very upsetting and stressful time, and we are not always thinking clearly during this emotional state. As a result, there are often times when an estate is distributed but some beneficiaries feel that it has not been done in accordance with the Will or that they have still missed out in some way. This isn’t uncommon and as any estate lawyer will tell you, a large part of their work involves resolving estate disputes between family members and other beneficiaries.
But if you are tempted to challenge a Will, be aware that there are specific reasons why you can challenge a Will. Although you may feel cheated, this may not alone be sufficient grounds for contesting a Will.
Some General Considerations
If you believe that you have not received a sufficient benefit under a Will and you fit certain criteria, you may be able to challenge a Will. Contesting a Will means applying to the court to have the Will, or parts of the Will, deemed invalid. While there may be a good reason you were left out, there may also be other possibilities.
Since contesting a Will is expensive and time-consuming, it is a good idea to get legal advice before you proceed. In addition, contesting a Will requires formal steps and procedures, and will only be successful if you can provide evidence to support your claim. Because the maker of the Will is deceased, any statements that you allege the deceased said, must be corroborated or confirmed by a witness. Depending on the jurisdiction, you may have to go to mediation and try to resolve the issues. If the case is not settled at mediation, it will then go to trial.
I’m young – do I need a Will?
You need a Will. In fact, there is never a circumstance where planning to not have a Will is a good idea. Dying without a Will is not a strategy, no matter how old or young you may be, you need a Will.
On a daily basis not many of us like to think about our inevitable death. It’s morbid and a subject that most of us don’t want to pay much attention to. Like going to the dentist for a root canal or having that screening at the hospital, there are some uncomfortable scenarios that we put off for as long as possible. Writing a Will should not be one of them.
But the thought of going over your possessions and paying a lawyer can be too much for some people. However, there comes a time when we need to face the cold hard reality that we won’t live forever and having a Will really isn’t for your benefit, but you write a Will for your loved ones. Granted, creating a Will may not be fun, and when you’re young there are a million and one things you would rather do but it’s actually not such a hard thing to do once you get over the mental hump. And you may actually learn something along the way.
To help you see the benefits of having a Will we have outlined why you’re (almost) never too young, and no matter the age, you need a Will.
Learn to write a Will at LegalWills.ca
An increasing number of Canadians are turning to services like the one at LegalWills.ca to write a Will. But every day we received requests from our customers to clarify a term, or clause in their Will. Usually this request comes with an apology for their lack of understanding, and every time we have to give the reassurances that;
- Although writing a Will is extremely important, it is not something that most of us do more than once of twice in a lifetime, so there is no reason to expect anybody to understand these terms.
- A Will is such an important document, but the legal profession intentionally tries to make the document more complicated that it needs to be by using arcane language. There is absolutely no reason for a Will to say, “I give, bequeath and devise” when a simple “I give” would work. Or to say, “I nominate, constitute and appoint” when a simple “I appoint” would mean the same thing. But using arcane language is a way of pushing people into using the services of a legal professional because it seems beyond the capabilities of the layperson.
- Nobody should be required to learn all of these terms in order to write a Will, and there are no clear concise guides that we could find.
Having said that, our Wills still use a lot of legal language, because the document is based on Continue reading
It is that time of year again. The time when we all make New Year’s Resolutions for things that we know we really ought to do, but never quite get around to. We all know the popular ones. Go to the gym, lose weight, spend more time with our family. However, there is one New Year’s Resolution that we should all make sure that we keep. Have you made a Will? We should prioritize “making a Will“. Before you head to the gym and pay to join again, make sure that you protect your family and loved ones by writing a Will.
So many people do not make a Will, but really there is no excuse not to. It is one of the most important things that you should do to make sure that your family and friends are provided for in the event of your death. Continue reading
What Happens to Your Facebook Account When You Die?
When we are making a Will, we know that we must think about our personal assets such as our house, money and possessions. However, have you ever stopped to think about what would happen to your social media accounts? Facebook has almost 1.8 billion users. You are most likely one of them. Have you thought about what happens to your Facebook account when you die? Even though many of us spend a great deal of time on Facebook, most people simply don’t think about what will happen to the account after they have died.
Facebook now gives you a number of options about what should happen to your account when you pass away. It is one of the most helpful of the social media networks in clarifying your choices. There are three choices you can make about what happens to your Facebook account when you die. You can simply delete the account, memorialize it or download the contents and then delete it. Just take some time to think about which option is the best for you. Once you have made your choice, Facebook has made it very easy for people to carry out their wishes. Continue reading
Why Do Most People Avoid Writing a Will?
Why do most people avoid writing a Will? Recent headlines suggest that people can avoid paying taxes for a considerable period. You just have to know your way around the system. However, none of us can cheat death forever.
“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”
Immortality is not an option. We all know that one day our time will come. Yet most of us just don’t want to think about it. This is probably one of the most common reasons for not writing a Will.
A Will allows you to decide what happens to your assets and even your children if you die. So why is it that less than half of the adult population of Canada have made a Will? It is an easy process which doesn’t cost much in terms of time or money.
Wondering whether our service is right for you? considering using an estate planning lawyer?
We know that 62 percent of Canadians don’t have a Will in place. A further 12 percent have a Will, but it’s out of date.
Even with that harrowing stat, the legal community still try to warn people against preparing their own Will. Claiming that you can only obtain a quality Last Will and Testament from an estate planning lawyer. Any approach to writing your own Will is going to result in pain for your family and loved ones.
In truth, there was some merit in this argument about 20 years ago when the only do-it-yourself Will writing options were a blank piece of paper, or a blank form Will kit. Both approaches are a disaster waiting to happen, and many estates went through protracted legal battles to settle an ambiguous instruction. Or worse, a Will was simply thrown out because it wasn’t signed correctly.
Thankfully in the years since LegalWills.ca came online in 2001, the online interactive Will writing services have come a long way. Much like tax preparation software that faced a similar backlash from tax preparing accountants, the use of online interactive Will writing services has grown year by year.
Online Will writing services have also improved to a point that for 99 percent of people, the final Will document is indistinguishable from a Will created by an estate planning lawyer. We know this because we use the exact same software used by any estate planning lawyer in Canada. We’ve just give you direct access to it.
How to Choose a Guardian for Your Children
One of the most important things which you need to consider when you are making your Will is how to choose a guardian. They will take care of your minor children in the event of your death. This really isn’t something that anyone ever wants to think about, but it is one of the most important decisions that you need to make. No one likes to think of their own mortality. However, making a Will and appointing a guardian is one of the most caring things that you can do for your minor children.
If you do not choose a guardian for your children and both parents die, the court will have to appoint one. This will usually be a willing volunteer. However, you really don’t want to leave something so incredibly important to chance. A judge can appoint whoever they want to. This person could be your worst nightmare, but a judge may have of way of knowing that if you haven’t made your wishes clear. Continue reading
There are two types of people who comment on our pricing, those who have previously used a lawyer, and those who are considering the use of a free Will kit.
The first group usually say;
“Wow, I was quoted $800 to write my Will, and your service is less than $40. How can your service possibly be any good?”
the second group say;
“$40 for a Last Will and Testament? Why on earth would I pay that if I can pay nothing with a free Will kit?”
In this article we are going to address the issue raised by the second group.
One of the most common misconceptions associated with writing your own Will is around the signing process. We answer this question ten times a day, so I thought I would provide some explanation. Many of you may have heard of an Affidavit of Execution, but you may be unsure of what it is, and what role it plays in authenticating your Will.
Writing your own Will – is it legal?
There are generally speaking three approaches to writing your Will.
1. Working with an estate planning lawyer or Will writer.
In some Canadian provinces (particularly BC and Québec) Notary Publics also have the authority to prepare a Will for you. Writing your Will with a lawyer or notary gives you a good chance of getting a quality Last Will and Testament (but not a guarantee!!). The downside of course is that it is often expensive, and certainly inconvenient to arrange an appointment with a lawyer. Even if you managed to write your Will, you probably wouldn’t make the time to update it to reflect any changes in your circumstances. The time and money barriers are so significant, that in a recent survey we found that 62 percent of Canadians didn’t have a Will. Of those that did, 12 percent were out of date. Continue reading
A key question that many people struggle with is: Who will be your executor in your Last Will and Testament?
Okay, who or what exactly is your Executor?
First of all, it is important to know the definition of an executor and what role they play in your last will and testament.
It is your executor’s responsibility to handle your last wishes. The executor is in charge of handling the estate and distributing property and possessions according to your instructions. It is also their duty to settle debts; a required step before your executor can distribute inheritances.
We provide a complete list of Executor responsibilities as part of our services at LegalWills.ca.
Securing your Estate
Your executor must keep your assets safe. You may have heard of terrible episodes of a person dying and the family descending on the estate. It can become a free-for-all where things just start disappearing. “He always told me that I could have this” says the favourite niece as she walks out of the door with the Andy Warhol pencil sketch. Continue reading
There appears to be divided opinion on the importance of Wills. There are a group who believe that a Will is a document to be written on one’s deathbed, as a final statement to explain who will receive the family heirlooms. Fortunately, most of us are wiser, and understand that a Will is something that everybody needs, no matter how old, or how wealthy. A Will is a vital part of your financial plan that is written when you are young, and updated throughout your lifetime.
“Fortunately I don’t need a Will yet”
A caller contacting LegalWills.ca on behalf of their mother
But statistics show that what we know about Wills, and what we actually do about Wills are two very different things. I think most of us were shocked to hear that Prince didn’t have a Will, while silently thinking that it’s something that we really need to get to ourselves.
Recent surveys have been quite consistent in putting the number of Canadians without a Will at just over half. A 2013 CIBC survey put the number at “about half”, while a 2012 LawPRO survey claimed that 56% of Canadians did not have a Will in place. Most recently, in 2014 the BC Notaries reported a number of 55% of British Columbians without a Will.
At LegalWills.ca we were interested in not only the number of people without a Will, but also the number of people with out-of-date Wills. This came from a social discussion on Wills that went something like this;
Dave: I do have a Will, but I wrote it a while ago.
Me: you think it may need to be updated?
Dave: Well, I wrote it just after we got married, but before we had the children.
Me: Are you kidding me? your girls are now 24 and 21 years old !! you don’t have a Will. Continue reading
As we spend more time online, our social, sentimental, and financial assets have begun to migrate online as well. Collectively, we have come to call these items, your digital assets.
Unfortunately, people all too frequently neglect the digital component when they write a Will. You probably haven’t considered creating a plan for your Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter accounts. Maybe you have recently experienced the loss of a friend and seen first hand the mis-management of online accounts for people who are no longer alive, I know I have. Sadly, three of my ex-colleagues have died, and every year, LinkedIn still prompts me to congratulate them on their work anniversary.
But there is much more to digital assets than your social accounts. Some of these assets simply need to be managed, some need named beneficiaries, and some have real monetary value and should be included as part of your estate.
Your Digital Assets – what are they?
You can divide the three most common forms of digital assets into three categories: social, sentimental, and financial digital assets. You may have a plan for your social assets, but having a comprehensive plan for your sentimental and financial assets is probably more important. Continue reading
Many of us remember the TV ads for the Canadian Will Kit. It later became the Complete Canadian estate planning kit. It’s been over a decade since those ads ran on TV and Radio, and to this day, we still receive calls from people looking for one.
Unfortunately, these kits became synonymous with “writing your own Will”. The kits were bad, the Wills that they created caused many problems, and so people still think that writing your own Will is a bad idea.
The common criticisms of “boilerplate” Wills like the Canadian Will Kit, and “one-size fits all” kits are still trotted out by lawyers advising people against writing their own Wills. But these criticisms are woefully out of date, and simply no longer apply to online Will services like the one at LegalWills.ca. Continue reading
Dying intestate means that you have died without a Will.
I’m not sure that anybody plans to die without a Will. After all, most people don’t plan to die. But it happens. In fact, the vast majority of Canadian adults do not have a Will in place, and most of these people think that they will probably have plenty of opportunities to write one at some time in the future.
Dying intestate…who does that?
Amy Winehouse, Barry White, Jimi Hendrix, Sonny Bono and Bob Marley would make a terrific band. However, what brings them together in this article is that they all suffered the ignominy of dying intestate.
But you don’t have to be young with a rock and roll lifestyle to end up dying without a Will. Roman Blum was 97 years old with an estate valued at $40M, he died without a Will and and incredibly with no heirs. His entire fortune in this case, was destined for the government coffers. Continue reading