A will is at the foundation of any solid financial plan. As such, your will should be reviewed periodically to ensure it accurately reflects your current wishes and financial situation.
It can be an emotionally draining exercise to prepare for your eventual death. However, preparation takes an enormous burden off of your family and loved ones should you unexpectedly pass. Without a will, the power to distribute your assets goes to the government, which may result in a greater portion of your estate lost to taxes. Furthermore, dying intestate may result in the distribution of your estate which does not reflect your actual wishes
There are many subjects covered in a will. It dictates how your assets are distributed, who takes care of your children, how your outstanding debts will be taken care of, and much more. These decisions are more thoughtfully made well in advance, rather than by your grieving family. Wills also address contingencies that extend beyond death - such as living wills and powers of attorney.
A Living Will is an advance statement of health care and medical wishes that you would prefer if you were in an unconscious or unresponsive state.
Power of Attorney is the clause in a will that allows a relative, friend, or attorney to act on your behalf. This could be necessary in situations where you are in an unconscious or in an unresponsive state.
Being proactive with your will allows you to be in control. You can choose your executor, the person who has the power to administer, manage and/or transfer the estate in accordance with your terms. As well, the executor makes decisions about the funeral arrangements, notifies the beneficiaries, protects the assets, as well as many other important duties. It is advisable to choose someone who you trust to be your executor.
Dying without a will, known as dying intestate, causes added stress and uncertainty to your family. You are essentially appointing the government as your executor. As such, there are specific rules as to the distribution of your estate. In Ontario, the estate would be distributed entirely to the surviving spouse. If there are children, the first $200 000 would be distributed to the spouse with any proceeds thereafter being distributed one third to the spouse, and two thirds to the children (subject to possible equalization claim). If you are in a common law relationship, your common law spouse has no rights to the estate as the courts do not recognize common law relationships.
All Canadians should have a will, but many are without one. Two thirds of Canadians do not have a will (1), and thousands of Canadian families each year suffer the consequences of not preparing.