Are you thinking of writing a Will? Have you perhaps heard of terms like “Executor”, “Bequest”, “Living Will” and are now worried that the process of writing your Will may be beyond you? You may be wondering whether it is possible to write a Will without understanding all of these legal expressions. After all, that’s why many people hire a lawyer to prepare the document for them.
You may be surprised to learn that you really don’t need to understand any of these legal words in order to use a service like LegalWills.ca. However, the words may appear in your final Will, and in that context they will make sense to you. We also explain some of the key definitions when you are working through the service. But you may be interested to learn exactly what some of these words actually mean.
Perhaps you wrote your Will with a lawyer. You have had it witnessed and now it’s stored at your lawyer’s office but you still have no idea what it says. Don’t worry, this isn’t an uncommon situation. Many people go through the whole task of writing a Will and signing it when they don’t fully understand what it says.
Unfortunately in today’s legal world, estate attorneys don’t always have sufficient time to go over every detail and word of a Will. This is partly because their time costs money, but also because writing a Will is an everyday common practice to them. Therefore, they often neglect to go over the basics with their clients. An experienced and understanding estate attorney should always be willing to go over every detail of your Will and explain any confusing language so that you feel comfortable when signing it. However, the legal environment can be intimidating and attorneys may assume that you understand the legal terms when in fact you don’t.
At LegalWills.ca we almost fall into the same pattern ourselves when we talk to customers about the “Executor” and the “Beneficiaries”. We forget that some people may be hearing these words for the first time. They are words that are rarely, if ever, used outside of the context of writing a Will.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve heard of Make a Will Week or Make a Will Month. But what actually is Make a Will Week? Why did it begin? What’s the point and what does it mean for you? Several Provinces recognize their own specific week or month annually to promote the same message: you need to make your Will. In the following article, we’ll go into why this is so important and answer several of the questions that you may have on Make a Will Week and Make a Will Month.
Make a Will Week and Make a Will Month are annual awareness campaigns, scheduled by their respective provinces, with the goal of informing and educating adults on the need for a Will.
“Determining how your wishes are expressed is a critical decision that impacts families and loved ones”, stated Lynne Vicars, President of the Ontario Bar Association – the originators of Ontario’s Make a Will Month.
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.
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
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
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
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
Writing your Will can be a very simple process, but because it is only done a few times in your life, it can be intimidating. It can seem daunting because there are so many unfamiliar terms used in the estate planning world. Expressions that are second nature to the legal community, but are not in everyday use for the rest of us. Before you make a Will, it is important to familiarize yourself with some of the more common expressions.
Just because the terms are unfamiliar, they are not complicated concepts. In this article we will explain a few of the words that you will need to know before you make a Will. We hope that we can demystified the process a little.
The term intestate is typical of much of the legal language in that it is derived from Latin, and in today’s World it means that you have died without a Will. Continue reading
A month ago I was at a dinner party. I met a couple who had young children and the conversation naturally led to how we make a living. I explained that I was one of the founders of LegalWills.ca, the online convenient affordable service for writing a legal Will. The couple were thrilled, they had two young children, they knew that they needed to prepare their legal Will, but hadn’t got around to it. It was on their list of things to do, but as with all tasks with no real deadline, it never seem to make it to the top of their list.
They loved the idea of just going online one evening, stepping through the service, compiling their document, and then printing, signing in front of witnesses and creating their legal Will. So excited were they, that I gave them my business card with a discount code.
One month later, they still haven’t written their legal Will.
They still haven’t named an Executor for their estate, guardians for their children, made any charitable bequests, set up trusts for their children, created a distribution plan for their estate.
If a Canadian dies without a Will, they have left a bit of a mess for their loved ones, and sadly missed out on an opportunity to distribute their assets in a meaningful way. Instead of recognizing friends or organizations that have made an impact on their life, they have left all of the planning to their Provincial government who have already decided how the assets will be divided. It may come as a surprise however, to learn that every Province is different and that there are some very inaccurate assumptions. In this post we will run through a few scenarios, and highlight some Provincial differences.
Let us start with the most common misconception;
If you are married, then your entire estate will go to your spouse.
The statistics still show that over 65% of adults in Canada do not have an up-to-date Last Will and Testament – even though most people know that they need a Will. Once in a while, somebody will tell us that they don’t need a Last Will and Testament – yet. Here are the top ten excuses for not having a Will, and we will explain why everybody should take the time to prepare their Will write now.
1. Everything is going to my spouse whether I have a Will or not
In reality, there is not a single Province in Canada in which you can guarantee that this will be the case. Without a Will, the distribution of your estate is determined by “intestate law”, which follows a rather complicated flow depending on your family situation. What makes it more complicated is that no two Provinces are the same. In most Provinces, if you are married with children, your spouse will not receive the entire estate. Continue reading