Why 2024 Should Be the Year You Finally Make a Will
Written by: Marie Kazmer, Associate
Was making a Will (or updating a Will) on your list of New Year’s Resolutions? In the vast landscape of personal finance and estate planning, a surprising number of Canadians find themselves without a crucial document—the Last Will and Testament. A Will is one of the most powerful tools to secure the future and protect the legacy of your hard-earned wealth, or wealth you may have inherited from a prior generation – yet most of us don’t make it a priority. Why? In this blog post, we’ll explore some common reasons behind this phenomenon and highlight why everyone, regardless of age or financial standing, should consider making a Will.
1. Misconceptions and Lack of Awareness:
People generally may not fully understand the importance of having a Will. Some believe that it’s a task reserved for the wealthy or the elderly and others simply “don’t care what happens once they die” – which in our respectful view is a naïve and sometimes detrimental understanding. The truth is, a Will is a critical document for individuals of all ages and financial backgrounds. It provides, at the very least, an appointed Estate Trustee (or Executor) who will have the authority administer your estate (including making funeral arrangements, paying your debts, and filing tax returns among other things) regardless of the significance of your assets.
2. Procrastination and Avoidance:
Life is busy, and planning for the unavoidable can be a daunting task. Procrastination often plays a role in the delay of creating a Will. On the flip-side, however, having a Will in place provides peace of mind and ensures that your wishes are known and respected, making it an essential aspect of responsible life planning.
A Will and comprehensive financial planning can also mean the difference of thousands of dollars to your estate, and ultimately, your beneficiaries. Taking the time to explore estate planning strategies (with a lawyer and/or accountant) is a short-term cost with a long-term benefit that should not be underestimated.
3. Fear of Confronting Mortality:
Confronting one’s mortality can be uncomfortable, leading some individuals to avoid the conversation altogether. However, making a Will is not just about contemplating death; it’s about empowering oneself and protecting loved ones by providing clear instructions on how assets should be distributed and affairs managed after death.
“Nothing is certain but death and taxes” a phrase we have all heard, and yes, both of these are inevitable realities, but with some planning and in particular, making a last Will, you can make the aftermath less costly in terms of both time and dollars for those you leave behind.
4. Assumption of Automatic Distribution:
Some individuals may assume that their assets will automatically be distributed to their family according to their wishes. On the other hand, there is a common misconception that the government will take over your estate and/or assets if you die without a Will (ie. intestate). Although this is untrue, without a legally valid will the distribution process is subject to the laws of intestacy.
The Succession Law Reform Act does contain a legislated scheme for the hierarchy of Estate Trustee appointment and distribution of assets governing intestate estates—and this scheme may not reflect your wishes. This becomes especially crucial if you wish to benefit anyone who is not necessarily included in that scheme, such as a common-law partner, friend or certain family members.
5. Guardianship for Minor Children:
For parents of minor children, a Will is a crucial tool for appointing (temporary) guardians and creating a record of your wishes a Court can refer to in a guardianship proceedings. Without a designated guardian named in a will, the Court may be left to decide who will care for children in the event of the parents’ untimely passing. Even if you believe that none of the above apply to you, the guardianship of your minor children is reason enough to create or update a Will.
Creating a will is not a morbid task but rather a responsible and considerate act. It empowers individuals to have control over their legacy and provides much-needed clarity for their loved ones during an emotionally challenging time. Regardless of age, financial status, or family structure, having a will is a fundamental aspect of life. Canadians should view it as a gift to their loved ones—a tangible expression of care and consideration for the future. It’s never too early to start planning, and making a will is a crucial step on the journey toward financial security and peace of mind.